Friday, August 23, 2013

Review: Night World, No. 1 - L.J. Smith

Vampires, werewolves, witches, shapeshifters -- they live among us without our knowledge. Night World is their secret society, a secret society with very strict rules. And falling in love breaks all the laws of the Night World.

In Secret Vampire, Poppy thought the summer would last forever. Then she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Now Poppy's only hope for survival is James, her friend and secret love. A vampire in the Night World, James can make Poppy immortal. But first they both must risk everything to go against the laws of Night World.

Fugitives from Night World, three vampire sisters leave their isolated home to live among humans in Daughters of Darkness. Their brother, Ash, is sent to bring the girls back, but he falls in love with their beautiful friend.

Two witch cousins fight over their high school crush. It's a battle between black magic and white magic in Spellbinder.


Aw, crap. More teenage vampires that attend high school and fall in love with mortals as opposed to eating them. These at least didn't appear to be of the sparkling variety, so I thought I would give them a shot.

I knew what I signed on for the instant I read the preface and learned the two rules of the Night World: don't tell mortals about it, and don't fall in love with mortals. Thanks for spoiling the ending. There was a bit of sameness about all three stories and I started rolling my eyes at the repetition of the soul mate principle, but overall it made for fun, quick reading.

Secret Vampire
What can I say? This one exceeded my expectations. I like the idea of born vampires and made vampires because I haven't seen that one often enough for it to feel boring yet, and I haven't seen the need to drink blood going beyond simple thirst at all. Poppy was spunky but not insufferable, and I liked twin brother Phil, but I felt in the middle of the road about James. He wasn't what I would call a bad character, but he didn't jump out and grab my attention. The mental link during the actual blood drinking was my favorite part and I liked the conflict about Poppy's transformation, but the ending just felt too easy for me, like Smith suddenly got bored and decided to wrap things up as quickly as possible and took the path of least resistance. Too feeble! I loved Poppy's reaction to James confessing what he is. If I had a terminal illness and the best friend I grew up with claimed to be an immortal vampire, I'd be pissed, too. Nice start, lousy ending...I'll give this one a three.

Daughters of Darkness
Shucks, more vampires. I thought there were more creatures in the Night World! This one was the exact opposite of Secret Vampire. It took me forever to get involved in it, but I actually liked the ending. Rowan, Kestrel, and Jade never made it past two-dimensional for me, but I liked Mary-Lynette a lot and Ash was a lot more appealing on the whole here, lazy, arrogant smart ass and all. Theirs was the most interesting plot line of the lot, though I had brief doubts when Jeremy became a major player. In fact, I could have done without the Mark and Jade love story entirely. Come on, two sets of soul mates among the same two sets of siblings? It seemed obnoxious and redundant. But the ending! I must return to the ending! I was sad to see it come to that conclusion all around, but it was a nice, solid finish that made up for the slow start. I'll give this one another three.

This one was the strongest of the book. It grabbed me and didn't let me stop until I read the whole thing...which I did in one sitting. Ugh, again with the instant soul mates thing that seems to be some sort of epidemic in the Night World, but I like how this one played out the best. Blaise was the most complex, unpredictable character by far, the subplot of a vengeful spirit on the loose actually supported rather than detracted and distracted, and the love story reminded me pleasantly of a book I read years ago and enjoyed quite a bit. Score! Aside from the insta-love that strikes within the first three chapters, I have no gripe with this one. It started good and ended even better, and even if the first two stories let me down this one made the whole book worth it. I give it a five!

So, calculating the overall rating based on the individual ratings and rounding up according to the decimals, I give volume one four stars out of five, and I stand behind it. Now get me volume two!

Your humble book nerd,

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Review: Love Changes Everything - Kelly McQuinn

I realize I missed Phantom Friday this week, but considering the way things haven't been moving according to plan so far as my dinky little blog goes, you'll forgive me for posting off-schedule.

A young girl. An Opera Ghost. A year after the incident with Christine another soprano finds herself in the Phantom's lair, but this time one with much more ability and drive. Can she convince him to make her a star or will he find a way to dispose of her first?


I ping-ponged back and forth on my rating for a second, then decided to round it up. What I liked outweighed whatever little nitpicks I had.

First off, I wish this could have been longer. Some parts were nicely developed, and others were good enough that I would have liked more time spent on them. I never got bored while reading (which happens too often when reading Phantom of the Opera retellings and sequels, only a handful of which are worth the time and effort) and enjoyed the story so much I hated to see it come to the end.

I admit, I had my doubts at first. In the beginning, it felt like déjà vu with a heroine similar enough to Christine it could have served the same purpose just to drop thoughts of an original character altogether and just rolled on with the existing one. Is this the same story all over again? No, wait, Antoinette is spunky and stubborn and the exact opposite of Christine, barring the fact that she has a near-perfect voice that needs tutoring. Oh no, it's worse than I thought! It's a Christine 2.0!

Ha ha, not. Antoinette looked like a potential Mary Sue, but as the story went along she grew. She got more and more interesting, and soon enough she was interesting on her own, not just for the way she managed to push Erik's buttons. She didn't behave like most OCs I've read in various fan fictions, which was a huge relief, and she did a few things I've never seen ANY characters do in various fan fictions, which was a breath of fresh air.

Erik's characterization was spot-on. Ms. McQuinn nailed the vital traits such as sarcasm, arrogance, bad temper, odd humor, and a little self-pity. The interaction between him and Antoinette took up most of the book, and I'll repeat the phrase "ping-pong" to describe it. They bounced back and forth, bickering and pestering each other and trying to wear each other down, then everything moved from there. And the best part about the E/A love story? It didn't happen right away! There is nothing more annoying than a sequel in which Erik miraculously forgets his all-consuming obsession with Christine in favor of a girl who just walks into the lair, sees past the hideous disfigurement that has made him an outcast his entire life, and instantly falls in love with him. The instance of Antoinette finding herself in the lair to start with seemed a bit unlikely, but the important plot point was not.

The second half of the book was my favorite, with all of those rare plot twists that actually work, but it's where I found most of my developing nitpicks. I would have liked to see more about the rivalry between Antoinette and Juliet and a little more of a transition between the Comte as a smitten suitor and the Comte as an abusive a-hole. On the other hand, I have no beef whatsoever with the climax and the ending. If the Erik-has-a-deformed-child ending is rare, then this one is just about unheard of. In fact, I haven't seen one like it yet, and I applaud Ms. McQuinn for pulling it off.

Let's see, what else? It was an enjoyable read, and certainly not one I regret, like others I could name *cough*ThePhantomofManhattan*cough* There were enough Leroux elements to satisfy me, with a few Kay and Webber twists to keep me on my toes. Tired of the same old, same old in the world of Phantom fan fiction? Give this one a try!

Your humble book nerd,

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Review: Daydreaming Roses and Fairytale Monsters - Michelle Rodriguez

Channing is a vampire who has spent his immortal existence on a mission. He’s never had time for the pleasures of living or to mourn his lost mortality until one fated night when he crosses the path of an innocent mortal girl and falls hopelessly in love. Rose has lived her life sheltered from the rest of the world. With no one but her beloved sisters as allies, she spends her days half lost in fairytales, creating stories of the world she has yet to know and believing in a true love she is destined to feel. When Rose becomes the object of Channing’s heart and obsession, dreams of fairytales become nightmares of monsters. In a love story as dark as it is destined, Channing seeks to prove to Rose that love defines the heart of a monster and can transform any beast into a man.


Rose Abbott may be my favorite of Michelle's heroines so far. I identified with her so well and so quickly she couldn't help but shoot to the top of the list. Living in a dream world, always full of stories with some too close to her heart to share lightly, determined not to settle when it comes to love, "beautiful and brilliant," and definitely not a damsel in distress. Then on the other end of the spectrum, we have Channing, the eighty-something vampire who, to all appearances, doesn't look a day over twenty-two. Channing is deadlocked in reality and on a mission for vengeance that has spanned over sixty years. You could say his personality is prone to obsession, and you would only be more convinced once he set eyes on Rose.

Beautiful language, humor, conflict within and without, and true love; this has everything I've come to expect from Ms. Rodriguez, and lest you get too comfortable, she threw in a few curve balls. Misuse of supernatural powers, a hero behaving like a villain in many different ways, the vampire equivalent of drug use, and what I feel is Michelle's creepiest baddie to date. It's just as dark as Opera Macabre , her previous vampire novel, but it's balanced with Channing's wise-guy sidekick Schuyler and Rose's two sisters, Millicent and Prudence. The interaction and the bond between the sisters really made the story for me, especially in light of the book's dedication, and it felt much more personal and (if possible) more heartfelt because of that. 

Michelle has told her fans this has a Phantom of the Opera flavor, and I can see that element in play, but I thought of it most as "Beauty and the Beast." Through a terrible curse, and ordinary man becomes a monster, and the key to breaking that curse is through the love of a woman who sees beyond the monster. Rose's story of the rose and the weed was one that will stay with me for a long time, and her tales of the Dark Man in her dreams were the best part of all.

All in all, another great story and one that's earned a place of honor on my bookshelves. And now, I leave you with a few of my favorite quotes!

- Perhaps I've believed in fairy tales too long, but I want someone who would adore me in a way that alters every bit of my world. I will not settle for plain love when I want explosions of firelight.

- Do you believe in shadows? Shadows with hands that come out of the night and can steal you away if you wish hard enough?

- Yes, he was her nightmare, and she was his dream, and that made them as far from each other as possible.

- I've always been a little in love with a character in my head, and not a single one of those ridiculous gentlemen could live up to my fantasy.

- She doesn't look like the violent sort, but the deadliest ones never do.

- You know what monsters lurk in the dark, and yet you embrace it anyway.

Your humble book nerd,