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by Ryu Maurakami
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.19
59 used & new from $4.18

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars So-So, May 25, 2010
This review is from: Audition (Paperback)
I was quite excited to read this book since the movie has been discussed in a few horror circles I frequent. I am a firm believer in reading and judging the book before seeing the film and, that being said, this is a case in which the book has compelled me to give the movie adaptation a try.

Audition is about a widowed man, Aoyama, searching for a new wife. Unfortunately, he hasn't pursued a relationship in so long that he isn't sure how to put himself back in the dating ring. Enter the whirlwind idea of a close friend: why not hold an audition for a new wife? Out of thousands of applications only one manages to catches his eye: Yamasaki Asami. But this mesmerizing woman isn't all that she claims to be.

The story itself is thrilling and it's the sort of book you would finish in one sitting. Despite it's 190 pages, it draws you in and unveils a weighty story. For the most part, it's precise, which is something most readers can appreciate.

The characters came off as a bit archetypal at times but they were crafted in such a way so that the readers were given insight to their personalities by what they said in did rather than being told by the author. So A+ for showing rather than telling. For the record, my favorite character was Shige. I expected to like Asami more than I did. She is meant to be a character shrouded in mystery but some of the events leading up to the climax don't leave much to be guessed at. So while Murakami gets an A+ for implications, he's a bit too heavy-handed with them at times.

That being said, the writing was smooth, as mentioned above, but it was overly verbose at times. On one hand, I can see how Aoyama's total infatuation with Asami was relevant to the story, but I found the endless descriptions of his obsession to be wearing. Less is more in this case, since I'm so fond of old writing adages.

There was only one thing about the book that truly annoyed me. I don't want to spoil so I won't provide specific examples--suffice it to say that they're there. A few times throughout the book Aoyama finds himself befuddled by something and seconds later, without any sort of rational reasoning, he will have magically figured out the reason for the way events have transpired. The sudden jumps in logic were jarring since you don't just start at point A, skip points B, C, and D, and then arrive safely to the conclusion. I assume that the author couldn't think of a way to the tie the lose ends together and, not wanting to leave the readers hanging, he slipped the knowledge so that we wouldn't be hung up on the technicalities.

Recommended for horror fans. If the movie is anything like the book then I can see why it has achieved cult status.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Will Grayson, Will Grayson
by John Green
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.85
104 used & new from $3.84

87 of 91 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Powerhouse of Awesome, April 11, 2010
I've been waiting for this book to come out since it was announced. Some background on my reading history: I love all of John Green's books and I love what I've read of David Levithan. So, naturally, I had high hopes for this awesome collision of genius.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is the story of two guys named Will Grayson: they are not related, they have close to nothing in common, and neither, in fact, knows that the other one exists. That is, until their volatile meeting in the middle of this book. In a porn store. In life-crumbling circumstances.

As usual with these two authors, the characters are realistically crafted and easy to relate to. There were times throughout the story that I felt myself nodding in sympathy or feeling vindictive hatred for the unfortunately dead-on portrayal of selfishness and angst that's common in most high school teenagers. What I love about these characters is that they are decidedly fluid individuals who learn life lessons and cry and hope and dissect situations to ridiculous extremes and hold grudges and appreciate love and friendship. This is the kind of book that reminds you what a coming of age tale is supposed to be.

My favorite character was Tiny Cooper. If I had to choose my favorite Will Grayson, I would choose Tiny Cooper. He was just that awesome. Tiny is the very large, very gay, and very fabulous best friend of John Green's Will Grayson. He has received funding from the student council in order to put on a musical he wrote himself called Tiny Dancer--which is, of course, all about Tiny Cooper. He is the show stealer of the book.

On the opposite end of the character spectrum, I never felt much of a connection with Jane, the love interest of John Green's Will Grayson. This is probably because I've come to expect much of John Green's girls. I was infatuated with Alaska Young and Margo was a fantastic multi-dimensional character. I had the same sort of problem with Jane as I did with the heroine of An Abundance of Katherines--I just never fell in love with her.

As for Levithan, I'm still pondering why he chose to write his portion using no capitals. I like to think that it's because his Will Grayson is just too apathetic to care about using a shift key. Authors trying to be innovative with the stylizing their narrative is usually a hit or miss for me. In Levithan's case, the innovation wasn't so over the top that it became pretentious, which--and I'm not naming any names--tends to happen.

For what's it worth, I have absolutely no regrets for paying the twenty dollar price for this book. John Green and David Levithan are a witty powerhouse of a team and I hope that they decide to do more work together in the future. I recommend Will Grayson, Will Grayson to all fans of humorous, romantic, intelligent coming of age tales.
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by Malinda Lo
Edition: Hardcover
56 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This Isn't Your Disney Cinderella, February 7, 2010
This review is from: Ash (Hardcover)
If you're like me and you're always looking for a good LGBT novel, Ash will likely satisfy your craving. Here are two words I know will hook you: lesbian Cinderella.

This book will also appeal to the fans of fairies that are hitting the young adult market. The fairies in this story are darker and read like actual fairies of lore rather than the kindly fairies with magic wands that you might expect with something tagged "Cinderella". The magic comes with a price and there are times when "happily ever after" doesn't seem possible.

If you're familiar with the story of Cinderella then I'm sure this book doesn't require a lengthy description. However, along with deliberate alterations Ash takes one major step away from the traditional fairy tale: instead of falling for the prince, the Cinderella character falls for the prince's huntress.

So what did I like about Ash? Let me make a brief list.

This is a book that doesn't define itself by the fact that it's about lesbians. Yes, the main characters are two girls who are attracted to one another and a large part of the plot is devoted to their romance. But in this world homosexuality isn't seen as deviant or immoral or even out of the ordinary. So a lot of the angst that accompanies young adult coming out stories is bypassed in Ash. This book is comfortable with itself. It's out and it's proud and it doesn't give a damn what other people think.

I also liked that the evil stepsisters were fleshed out beyond the archetypical concept of the evil stepsisters. You get a look into their motivations. This is nice since it occurs to me that the stepsisters are an integral part of the story. I loved reading about their interactions with Ash.

There was also Malinda Lo's beautiful prose. The writing style added to the mysticism of the world and it managed what quite a few novels fail at--it was pretty without bordering on purple.

My one concern was the balance of the story. I felt that Malinda Lo was trying to cover two stories--the fairy aspect and Ash's romance with Kaisa--while still keeping track of a few other sub-plots. It felt like so many dimensions of the story could have been explored at far greater length. I wanted to learn more about Kaisa and more about the fairy world and more about the Cinderella world outside of the fairies and more about the prince and the royal family and more about Ash's mom and so much more.

I know Malinda Lo has stated that there will no be a sequel but this honestly feels like a book that deserves one. I hope she at least decides to keep the option open. Either way, I can't wait to read more from her.

Purge: Rehab Diaries
Purge: Rehab Diaries
by Nicole Johns
Edition: Paperback
27 used & new from $1.83

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Life in EDNOS, Life in Treatment, February 7, 2010
This review is from: Purge: Rehab Diaries (Paperback)
I finished the majority of this memoir in one night. Powerful book--very easy to read. Most people are only aware of anorexia and bulimia but Purge takes the reader inside the experience of a not-so-well-known eating disorder: EDNOS. (Which stands for Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.)

The book starts with an introduction by Nicole Johns in which she references Wasted by Marya Hornbacher. I wasn't sure how to take this: on one hand, she just referenced my favorite memoir and probably the most intense book out there that deals with the subject of eating disorders. On the other hand, I didn't want Purge to be a wannabe-Wasted. Turns out I didn't have to worry.

The book takes place during Johns' days of recovery in an eating disorder clinic. Not only does she take the reader through the hectic life of a person with EDNOS, she also takes them through the long hard road to recovery. The style has sort of a journal-like feel to it. (This is reflected by the first chapter which contains selected entry from Johns' diary.) This made the book feel a bit more personal, which is one of the things that made this book very powerful. A few chapters after the first were written in second person which I found a little bit annoying, but I won't sit here and complain about something as trivial as that.

The book really gets going when Nicole is checked into the clinic. We meet the other residents, as well as the staff, and we're all set to get familiar with the treatment from the moment of arrival. (I knew before that rehab centers had very strict rules--I didn't know the extent until I read this book. Some of the rules just seemed completely random; I would never have thought of half the policies and procedures Johns describes.)

I don't want to say too much about it, but the ending was a punch in the stomach. (And I mean that in a good way.) Though the whole book is affecting, the ending does a good job of capping it off and leaving the reader reeling.

Only one thing left me feeling a bit put off: I wish that Johns would have discussed her evolution into EDNOS a bit more thoroughly. As I said before, the story focuses on her stay in treatment and the most background that we get is that her parents wanted her to be perfect and that she developed her disorder when she was fourteen. I wanted to hear a bit more about the train ride to EDNOS: was there something specific that pushed her over the edge? What childhood incidents defined her choice? When did she make the conscious decision to engage in ED behavior? Was there ever a conscious incident at all, or did she one day just find herself purging?

Perhaps a companion book detailing how she got from Point A to Point B would be ideal to compliment this one. (Perhaps one is already in the works--I would certainly buy it.) But nonetheless, this book is a keeper. If you like memoirs, check it out. If you liked Wasted and want something more, check it out. If you often find yourself in the addiction/recovery section of Barnes and Noble, check it out. You won't be disappointed.

The Bermudez Triangle
The Bermudez Triangle
by Maureen Johnson
Edition: Paperback
75 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Friendship, Love, and Delightful Characters, February 7, 2010
This review is from: The Bermudez Triangle (Paperback)
I've read every Maureen Johnson book, I am proud to say. I always turn to her books or her blog when I'm feeling down, because her work is medicine for the soul. The Bermudez Triangle is one of the best Johnson books (right up there with Devilish and Suite Scarlett.) And, though I've read quite a few young adult LGBT novels, I would probably choose The Bermudez Triangle as my favorite if it came down to it. A few people have told me that they found it a bit average. I think The Bermudez Triangle is one of those books that came along at the right time in my life. And I want to talk about what struck me about it.

And I'm sorry of this review is a bit stream-of-conscious.

The thing I love most about Maureen Johnson novels is the atmosphere that she manages to invoke. The Bermudez Triangle, though, would get my vote for Most Atmospheric. And though it is labeled as an LGBT novel the true focus of the story is the friendship of three girls: Nina, Mel, and Avery.

I love these girls. They were the kind of characters that became your friends through the course of the story. They had their own quirks, their own hopes and concerns and their own trials and tribulations to deal with. The descriptions of the world they live in are fresh and familiar. (The weird people you knew in high school? All of the issues big and small that consumed your world? They're all there.)

The other character I came to love was the sweet and witty Parker. He was what tied the story together and put a bow on top.

Now onto the book itself.

The book goes through the course of a normal school year and is divided into section by holidays. (St. Patrick's Day, Halloween, Valentine's Day, etc.) The point of view rotates among Nina, Mel, and Avery who are each dealing with their own problems. Each girl provides a unique perspective of story events which is something that I love to find in a book.

I can't really pinpoint a favorite part of the book since I love so much of it. Plus I wouldn't want to accidentally give anything away. I can say, though, that my copy is marked up with dozens of colorful annotation flags--these are mostly witty lines, which this book is chock full of.

And despite what the description might suggest, it's not a teen melodrama. (This was the first impression I got.) It's also not a book that's trying too hard to be spectacular or glamorous. It's truthful, for lack of a better word, and that's what made me love it so much.

This book has been challenged in a few places, which is a shame. I want to show my full support of The Bermudez Triangle with this review: not only does it belong in library and bookstore shelves, it belongs in your hands right now. Happy reading.

13 Little Blue Envelopes
13 Little Blue Envelopes
by Maureen Johnson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.18
324 used & new from $0.01

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the Best MJ Read, February 7, 2010
Let me just start out by saying that I am a big fan of Maureen Johnson. Her sense of humor is what draws me into her books and leaves me wishing for more by the time I'm done. That said, 13 Little Blue Envelopes is her one book that got the most hype pre-Suite Scarlett so I am shocked at what a disappointment it was.


Ms. Johnson normally has that pitch-perfect ability to make characters and situations come alive for me. I wasn't feeling it with this one. The premise is interesting enough: a deceased woman leads her niece through Europe via instructions written in thirteen little blue envelopes. However, Maureen Johnson wasn't able to give this particularly wacky situation a soul. It just starts off with Ginny explaining how the envelopes situation came about and a little background on her and her aunt. Then she's off to Europe. That's it, just like that. As if everyone is just able to swing off to an entirely different continent. It had previously mentioned that her mom was disapproving of her aunt and her antics so why was she met with no challenge on the exploration of Europe? I haven't seen anyone bring this up yet so maybe it's only me, but I don't think most parents would want their child gallavanting alone through unfamiliar countries. Even a brief mentioned of a conflict or some sort of parental reaction or even a "Ginny had run away to the airport and her parents currently had no idea where she was" would have brought the situation to life a little bit more. (I'm sorry. I'm nit-picky about these kinds of details. I know it's not a huge central problem but there it is.)

Great characterization is another thing that I look for in Maureen Johnson books. She's usually able to create believable characters with likes and dislikes and habits and passions and everything else that makes a person a person. Ginny was just bland. The story was more about Aunt Peg who was stuffed with believable-Maureen-Johnson-personality. Ginny was just an empty vessel meant to uncover the truth about her aunt. She was given a love interest who was half-way believable and that's about all there is to say about Ginny.

I was excited to read a book that was not only set in Europe but set ALL OVER Europe. But I never really got the impression that Ginny was seeing these new and exciting places. She just skipped around through them, not really making them memorable or even fun. She may as well have been trekking through the backalleys of any suburban neighborhood. Each glance of a new country was fleeting and came with a new character/situation/piece of knowledge that was also fleeting. All in all, Europe seemed just as lifeless as Ginny did.

I gave the book three stars because despite my complaints with it there were a few redeeming factors. The scene in which Ginny and few others sing along to ABBA songs in Denmark was definitely a mark of the wonderful Maureen Johnson. The Starbucks Musical was a hilarious idea and something that I would pay money to see--this was the one part of the book that Ginny actually evoked a reaction from me. I could feel her anxiety when she realized the mistake she had made by buying out all the tickets. There were a few minor characters I wouldn't mind reading about had Ms. Johnson made one of them the protagonist: the first was Mari Adams, the eccentric artist that Ginny meets. The other was Olivia, the secret lesbian living with a pair of rather deranged parents.

All in all, I would recommend Johnson's other works before this though if you are a Maureen Johnson fan, a bit of her spark does shine through making it worth the read.
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The Weight of Silence
The Weight of Silence
by Heather Gudenkauf
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.46
549 used & new from $0.01

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Premise Cracks Under Bad Execution--Spoilers, February 6, 2010
This review is from: The Weight of Silence (Paperback)
Anyone else notice these books sitting on the front shelves at Borders? The cover is so pretty--how can you not notice it? So when I noticed this book for the first time one of the Borders employees ambushed me and explained to me in gushing detail that this was one of the most phenomenal books she's ever read. She said she had to sit up all night reading it until the very end because it was essential that she find out what happened. So I bought it. How can you say no to a book that is that good?

Well, after having read it, I have a question for everyone who works at Borders: is promoting certain books part of your job? Regardless of whether you like the book? Or if you've even read it?

Anyway, Borders aside. This book was nowhere near phenomenal. I wouldn't even call it particularly enjoyable.

The book centers around seven-year-old Calli who does not speak. She is taken into the woods by her alcoholic father one morning--on that same morning her friend Petra also disappears. Interesting premise. Unfortunately, the writing itself left something to be desired.

I'll start off by saying that if you're going to tackle a heavy subject, you need characters that can carry their weight. This was the books biggest failing. The chapters rotate to a new perspective every couple of pages. And you have a wide variety of characters telling this story--fathers, mothers, young girls, a young boy, and so on. But I couldn't differentiate between any voices. Not a single one was distinct.

The prose itself is pretty solid.

The one major problem I had was the fact that the story was not thrilling. The story cracked under the lack of suspense and the fact that there are places in which it's hard to keep that suspension of disbelief. Calli is the main focus of the story and what the reader is supposed to care about. But we know the person who kidnapped her, why she was kidnapped, and where she was taken. And there was also the fact that we don't get any sense of danger from her situation, since Griff doesn't seem to intend to do her major harm.

It seemed to me that the author realized this and threw Petra in there as a side-mystery. I only say this since she is not mentioned with the same reverence that Calli is and that her kidnapping doesn't come to any major wrap-up or climax. Sure, we find out whodunit but the motive seems wonky at best.

And one more thing I wouldn't normally complain about but I feel is worth mentioning--the messages in this story seem to blatantly say that a woman's number one goal in life is to marry and have kids. It might just be me being over-sensitive but the fact that every single woman in this book has no trait or ambition other than "wife and mother" disturbed me. Antonia seems so desperate to fit this mold that she marries an abusive jackass.

So overall, two of five. I would tread cautiously around Borders employees looking to sell you this book unless you're quite sure that it is the kind of book you'd love read.

Untamed: A House of Night Novel (House of Night Novels)
Untamed: A House of Night Novel (House of Night Novels)
by P. C. Cast
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.21
110 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Sudden Leap In Quality--Spoilers, February 5, 2010
Wow. This series has just been so up-and-down for me. I was disappointed by the previous entry into the House of Night series. But Untamed not only made up for all of the issues in Chosen, it is easily the best so far in the series. I wish all of the previous books had been on par with Untamed.

What did I like so much about this book?

Well, my favorite thing about the series thus far has been the rituals, the legends, and the mythology. In this book these elements are brought to the forefront of the novel. In the last hundred or so pages we are treated to a legend of epic proportions and exciting revelations in the plot. It was a welcome break from Zoey and her boy issues.

And though Zoey hasn't gotten less annoying I am choosing to overlook it in this review. (I think I've already made my opinions clear.) But I love Aphrodite; she surpasses the main character by miles. I sometimes find the things she says a little too far out there to be believable. (The beginning of the novel, for example. I found the way she addresses the entire cafeteria in such a superior and condescending way to be much too outrageous. And the fact that no one stepped up to kick her ass was also a bit galling. If anyone spoke like that in my high school they would end up with a broken face.) But save for brief passages like these I do so love reading about Aphrodite. In fact, I love reading about Stevie Rae as well. If the Casts would ditch Zoey and perhaps write about the two of them I would be one happy reader.

And this book redeemed itself in my eyes with the inclusion of the Sister Mary Angela, the nun who works at Street Cats. I was excited to see her portrayed as a positive, accepting character. It threw off the generalization made in previous books that all people of faith are "People of Faith". You go, Casts!

It also seems that Zoey's relationship with Heath is done for. With Heath done for and Loren--well--dead, it seems that the irritating love triangle subplot is coming to a close. I don't care who she ends up with at this point. Just get on with the plot.

And what did I not like about this book?

The appearance of Stark makes me wary. Zoey doesn't need any more love interests. And why is it that they like each other so much after a single conversation? Does everyone in this book fall in love with Zoey after setting eyes on her? I much preferred the relationship between Aphrodite and Darius--now, there's a love interest with actual potential. (And Zoey honestly has the gall to call Aphrodite a ho? As far as we've seen Aphrodite sticks with one boy at a time instead of falling over anyone that goes near her.)

And the one other thing that irked me out of the story was a passage near the beginning of the book. I'll quote it for the purpose of this review:

"Sadly, it was the Twins who answered me and not gay, and therefore more sensitive and polite, Damien."

...What? Since when is being gay equivalent with being sensitive and polite? Sounds like another sweeping generalization.

I probably won't be picking up Hunted until it comes out in paperback for two reasons: one, I don't want to pay the hardcover price and two, I have the first four in paperback and I like my books to match. So I'll be taking a break from HON for a while but expect me to come flying in with a new review as soon as the paperbacks are on the shelves.

Chosen: A House of Night Novel (House of Night Novels)
Chosen: A House of Night Novel (House of Night Novels)
by P. C. Cast
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.28
113 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Miss Mary-Sue is at it Again--MAJOR Spoilers, February 5, 2010
Up until this point I've been a bit critical of the House of Night series. I keep calling it a series that has potential but hasn't realized it yet. I admit that I wasn't so sure of these books after reading Marked, but after Betrayed I thought things were starting to move in the right direction. But then I read Chosen. What happened, Casts? I was hoping for the series to just keep improving but Chosen was actually a few steps backward.

I'm not going to go over again what I think is wrong with the series in general. Those are detailed in my reviews of Marked and Betrayed. I'm going to stick specifically with my thoughts on Chosen.

First off, I know I complain a lot about Zoey being perfect. I do this because it is a blatant issue that needs to be dealt with and it annoys me a lot. I think Chosen was meant to illustrate Zoey's imperfections since she seems to make a lot of bad choices and she's pretty much friendless by the end of the book. But it didn't really showcase Zoey's shortcomings so much as it came across as a compensation for what I'm sure have been multiple complaints by readers. It's like Zoey was saying, "Look at me, guys! I'm not so perfect! I can make bad choices, too!"

Okay. Zoey's imperfections include all of the following:

1) She witholds vital information from her friends in an effort to keep them safe. This results in anger on their part. Really not so much an imperfection or even an example of a bad choice. It could probably be classified as a misunderstanding that will only make Zoey look more virtuous once it's cleared up.

2) Zoey can't choose between boys and this makes her a 'ho'. And I can understand a girl having a weakness for boys and having trouble choosing. Not exactly what I would call an interesting or tragic weakness like having a lame leg or being jaded and unable to form solid relationships but whatever. (Or the visions Aphrodite has which can be considered both a gift and a curse depending on which way you look at it.) Zoey can't choose between however many guys she has chasing after her. But there's really only so far that little subplot can stretch before it gets old. When Zoey went to end her relationship with Heath I had that "YOU GO GIRL" attitude. Because I thought we might actually be GETTING SOMEWHERE with the love triangle. But no. She ends up in the same place she did the last time she tried to break up with Heath: lusting over his blood and still in a (demented) relationship.

And she potentially kills two guys in the process. Which I want to discuss briefly. I guess the whole scene might have been interesting if it wasn't so arbitrary and poorly dealt with. She doesn't stay long enough to find out if they're dead and it's never brought up again save for a moment of "OMIGOD I THINK I MIGHT HAVE JUST BEEN RESPONSIBLE FOR TWO DEATHS" and then we're back to boyfriend troubles.

3) Zoey makes bad choices. Or at least a small series of related bad choices that accumulate in the climax that anyone thinking rationally would have seen coming. Thus we have my biggest problem with this installment: I complimented the last book on the storyline and flow of events. Because despite its problems the book was generally engaging. But in Chosen the best way to describe the storyline is forced. Here's what I mean:

I didn't believe that Zoey the oh-so-virtuous who condemns anyone who so much as kisses in public as a 'ho' would hop into the sack with a teacher on an impulse. Even if I did believe it, it's too much of a stretch for me to believe that Zoey would ignore that goddess-given feeling in her stomach and spill EVERY COMPROMISING DETAIL she's been dealing with the entire book to a man who's almost a complete stranger. Everything about Stevie-Rae and Neferet and anything else any sane person would have kept quiet about.

Events in this story moved happened because the authors needed for them to happen. Zoey needed to confess what she knew so that she could be betrayed and the conflict with Neferet would further. Adding to this the fact that none of the faults of previous books have improved makes for one very unhappy reader.

I hope Untamed brings this series back up to the level of Betrayed.

Betrayed: A House of Night Novel (House of Night Novels)
Betrayed: A House of Night Novel (House of Night Novels)
by P. C. Cast
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.63
142 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Premise, Dreadful Protagonist--Spoilers, February 5, 2010
Throughout this book my one consistent thought was that this could be a phenomenal series with some major edits. There are a lot of reasons for this and many of these reasons are expressed in my review of Marked. I happen to like Betrayed better than Marked. And I think I'll ramble on a bit about what I liked and didn't like in the hopes of reaching some conclusion.

The concept of the book is wonderful. I wasn't exactly impressed when I read 'vampire finishing school' for the first time but the Casts have really put a wonderful spin on vampires. And though I do like my traditional folklore, I do appreciate a good spin. And there's plenty to keep the reader interested and entertained. I know I certainly enjoyed the bomb threat scene.

But sometimes the characters just make me want to hit myself with the book a couple of times. A few are still loaded with potential--I happen to like Aphrodite and Stevie Rae best for exactly this reason. And if their potential remains unharnessed in books to come I'll have lost all sense of why I even bother reading. Characters are important to me and these are the only two characters that have carried these first two books. I also think that given a little work Damien might deserve his time in the spotlight as well. And Neferet...well, I'll have to see where the Casts go with Neferet before I really pass judgement.

Who isn't displaying this promise for blossoming? Zoey and the Twins. And Erik isn't really doing much for me either. Shaunee and Erin--the 'Twins'--are just...annoying. I mentioned in my review of Marked that it would not be cute for Shaunee and Erin to be developed as a single person because they're so much alike. Unfortunately, this seems to be where their characters are going. And their constant use of "Twin this" and "Twin that" is profoundly irritating. The concept of two completely different people being so alike is interesting--but it shouldn't be the only concept that you work with!

And I just can't get over how little growth Zoey shows despite the fact that she is the main character. And you want to know why she doesn't show growth? Because she is already unnaturally perfect. She has more gifts than you can count on one hand. She has three boyfriends. (I'm sorry, a boyfriend, an ex-boyfriend that she still wants to be with, and a teacher she openly flirts with.) And she is moral and honorable and says words like "poopie".

Speaking of Zoey, seeing things from her point of view really brings down the quality of the books' writing. She sounds like she's trying to hard to come across as a normal teenager and not doing too well at it. I mentioned the annoying amplifiers she uses in my previous review--totally, seriously, definitely, completely, etc.--and no, that still hasn't stopped. And what's worse is the little parenthetical interjections that Zoey always has to add in. My favorite in this one occurred while she was Googling prestigious high schools. She came across one called Mrs. Porters and couldn't resist adding: "Really--hee hee--that's the school's name." Sorry Zoey, I'm not seeing the humor.

As far as the story goes, the book is lively and interesting. I was only bothered by a few things within the story itself. The one thing that springs to mind is the random inane chatter between Zoey and Heath while she's facing off about a dozen members of the undead to rescue him. It was very throwing since most people with common sense would know that such a scene would not be the time or place.

As for the vampires themselves, I love the Paganistic rituals and customs and think that they add flavor to the story. Earth, water, fire, air, and spirit? I love it and can't wait to read more of it. But the one thing that bothers me: can we please stop with the unwarranted prejudice? The scene where Zoey's parents visited in the beginning was the only other scene I can think of that threw me from the story. It really just came off as way to make the Christian character seem like an ass. One of the themes in the book is acceptance of others but why can't the Casts extend this ideal to every denomination of people?

I'm really hoping for this series to be great. I want the stars to keep building with each book. But I don't see that happening unless a few changes are made.

(Oh, and I have to give due to the cover designer. These books are beautiful.)

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