Haitus Is Over!

Having to take a few months off to deal with my very own parapsuedo-like life, I've returned to try and play catch-up.

Since I quit blogging in the summer, I've read almost 30 books that I have to write about.  And more are on the way from Amazon.

Something excellent happened that kicked me in the ass to get back to work here.  A professor at California State University asked me to come make a presentation to her graduate theory seminar on "vampire stuff."  I ended up lecturing on female sexuality in teen paranormal romances.  The title of my presentation was "Teen Paranormal Fiction: The Written Word as Chastity Belt."  It was radical!

Anyway, I realize that I need to get back to work documenting here.  In fact, I may have to re-read several novels to even be able to.  Backtracking doesn't appeal to me, but it may be necessary for my academic plans.

So, off I go to read, and I hope to return soon with some new posts.


Vampire Academy (Whole Series)

I picked these up right after I finished Wicked Lovely, again on the recommendation of the illustrious Cyna from You're Killing Me.  Getting back into the vampy groove wasn't too hard, and I was ready for a change from the fairy tale.  The first positive:  in this novel, vampires don't live in a kingdom called Vampire.  (Still holding onto that pet peeve from WL.)

I'm once again gonna treat this series as one storyline, starting with a few notes on the individual novels.  Buckle up for a massive post.

Vampire Academy
I got into this story right away.  Who couldn't?  A little downplayed lesbo-erotica hooks me every time.  I liked Rose in all her slutty, smart-mouthed, crab-shell-protecto glory, and I felt at home in her world--because it's a real world, full of catty teen bitches, snobby cliques, sneaky nighttime escapades, sexual tension, and teen angst.  The secondary characters worked for me, too, especially Dreamboat Dimitri.

A great sequel, filled with character development, action, mischief, and suffering.  Mead takes her characters seriously, and this novel has them facing some serious strife in their best form (which is sometimes their worst form, if you know what I mean).  The introduction of Audacious Adrien is perfection.  He's a great foil for both Dreamboat Dimitri and Mundane Mason in the love hexagon Mead's setting up to unfold.  There's a delightful massacre the brutality of which is offset by the bonds of friendship.  (Why am I not employed to write this drivel for insets?)  Rose's mother adds a depth to Rose's character--whether either of them wants to admit it or not.

Shadow Kiss
The ugly politics begin.  Death continues.  Rose falls--but not as hard as Dimitri.  Adrian helps to put her back together.  Christian gets even radder, and Lissa...is Lissa.  Even though my mother didn't like this one for some valid reasons, I loved the plot twists.  I even had an "Oh, shit!" moment.  By this novel, I was fully invested in almost every character, and I was willing to accept new ones who spring up to add evil and comfort.  I'd consider this a bridge to the next novel, but it's got enough of its own unique intrigue to qualify as more than that.

Blood Promise
Rose gets on my nerves a little here, but I loved that she goes to Russia.  I also loved that she becomes a blood whore to devilish Dimitri, now a naughty, dirty immortal bastard.  The introduction of Sydney as Rose's balance is cool, and the sinister mafia-pirate-like Abe added even more suspense.  I'll comment below on the Rose-Lissa mind-meld, but suffice it to say it's a narrative trick that works--most of the time.  Avery and Lissa's adventures are fun, and Adrian's dreamwalking works okay.  The only problem is that there's not really any sexiness in this one.

Spirit Bound
Very cool opening--sinister letters are always a catapult to reading on.  Very lame Dimitri plot.  Very cliffhangy ending.  All the stuff in between is fluffy.  This one was definitely my least favorite because everything seems too easy, and Rose is a whiner.  What happened to the badass?  Adrian starts to get a little pathetic, too, like some wilting mint weed.  (Huh?)  The Rose-Dimitri tension is way too drawn out, putting this novel in the Lazy Editor category.

Last Sacrifice
By this novel, the plot's convoluted.  There's a lot of driving around, a lot of mind-melding, a lot of almosts, and too many easy solutions.  I still liked the characters--minus Rose and Dimitri--but I'd had enough of the running around.  I felt like some sort of swami as I read this one because everything's so predictable.  Bummer ending!

Onward with the nitpicking...

  • Writing.  Again, here's a novelist who has a command of language.  Her writing voice is natural and consistent, and she knows how to round out a character.  
  • Tension.  Sexual tension's always delicious, but there's much more here.  It's not as determined as The Mortal Instruments in its social consciousness, but there's definitely tension between class and race.  Sometimes the tension feels forced, and sometimes there are questionable minor conflicts, but overall, it's a page-turning series.
  • Dimitri.  Super sexy, aloof, and romantic.  And then when he's evil, he's E.V.I.L.  He's balanced as a character, never too asshole-ish or gooey.  But then Mead misses her opportunity (see below) to make Dimitri legendary.  The only weird thing is his height. 6'7"--and I know that because Rose marvels at it a few times.  It's just awkward to imagine him hugging Rose.  It seems like some sort of acrobatic bendy spine would have to take place.
  • Family issues.  There's a great balance between the orphans-by-design and the upturned-chin royals.  Both have their conflicts and bonds.  Rose's mother is awesome, followed only in awesomeness by Abe, her long-lost dad.  (That's gold hoop-wearing, beard-sporting, snazzy pimp-ish Abe, who would have to be played by Isaac Hayes's great grandson--if he had one.)  After witnessing the dynamics between the three, it's obvious where Rose's character flaws and strengths come from.  Lissa's loneliness and alienation should've been played up more to capture the true sisterly love bond between Rose and her, but it's okay.  Dimitri's Russian family rules, and the backwoods squatter family is rad.  Too bad there's not more of them.
  • Sex.  Real sex.  
  • Adrian.  He's a great bad boy.  He exudes sexiness, smokes cloves, drinks constantly, purposefully messes his hair up, basks in his delightful egocentrism, and gets appropriately intense.  He rebels against his royal lineage, but plays them when he wants something.  He's like a John Hughes character gene-spliced with a toned down Russell Brand.  I love the dirty trust fund jerks, and Adrian's one of them--minus a little of the jerk.  Hot.
  • Ambitious plot.  This story moves all over the place.  We're in Russia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio; prep schools, college campuses, hillbilly vampire camps, seedy hotels, dank prisons, opulent churches, coffee shops.  Components from different genres--romance, mystery, crime fiction--work together (pretty well).  All the characters have roles that add to the movement of the plot--and sometimes movement away from the predictable.
  • Rose as a blood whore.  I love that she becomes the very thing that disgusts her. And I love that it's Dimitri who forces her to go there.  Too bad she didn't continue struggling with it throughout the rest of the series.  She gets a little nip here and there, but how rad would it've been if she'd been blood whore to the queen, or blood whore to Mia?  Hahaha!
  • Christian.  He's like half of my high school guy friends--outcast, mysterious, rebellious, yet sensitive.  He's curious and intellectual, yet he loves the coldest fish in the universe: Lissa. 
  • Title.  Vampire Academy?  Hyperlame.  The subsequent novels' titles are nice (though I don't always get their relevance), but under each is "A Vampire Academy Novel."  Also, as barely any of the story takes place at a vampire academy, it's kinda weird.
  • Rose's development.  She starts out so strong, and ends up so weak.  It's like one of those dates you go on with someone who initially makes your intestines flutter, but who ends up making you want to slap yourself across the face with a giant flyswatter.  She lets her obsession with Dimitri erode her initial awesomeness to the point that I'm not that fulfilled by her lucky happiness at the end of the series.  Her involvement with Adrian sucks.  She totally leads him on--sounds high school to put it that way, but it's true.  She strings him along while she tries to convince herself to settle for him.  What a bitch!  
  • Lissa.  She's totally flat, totally boring, and totally coddled.  In the latter half of the series, it feels like her main function is to let us know what's going on at home while Rose traipses around the globe looking for evil Dimitri or eluding the vampy cops.  She doesn't deserve her fate, and I can't imagine the VA universe with her at the helm.
  • Jill.  What's the point of this girl?  She's more a plot device than a character.  I don't get what significance she's supposed to add to Lissa's life at the end--and I don't think the rest of the characters do, either.
  • Rose's treatment of Adrian.  Again, what a bitch!  Adrian doesn't give her half the hell she deserves.  He should've thrown up a fire hydrant of blood right at her face, a la Lucy in Bram Stoker's Dracula (you know, the one where Keanu Reeves perfected the British accent).  I just hope we get to see more of him in the spin-off series that's coming out soon.
  • No resurgence of Dimitri's family or of the hillbillies.  They are so refreshing after a zillion pages of royal muck and prep school drabness.  Why aren't they at the big hullabaloo in the final novel?
  • Dimitri.  It would've been SO much better to have evil Dimitri romping through more than one novel.  That's one of the best parts of the whole thing.  Why remove that so quickly?  It's the ultimate conflict!  The "fix" is way too easy and way too quick.  He should've been allowed to develop completely as a baddy.  He could've eaten the queen in front of everyone and still been sexy as hell.  Mead could've made him the best sympathetic reluctant villain ever.  Oh, well.
  • Mind-melding.  Enough's enough.  I got tired of always slipping in and out of Lissa's mind.  It's like Mead regretted her decision to put it all in Rose's p.o.v. and needed a way to fill in the plot points of junk going on back at Vamp Central.  There are other fancy fiction tricks to accomplish the same stuff.  It's not really that big of a deal, but every time Rose has some down time, it's like "Wonder what that Lissa's up to?"  ZING!  "Oh, that!"
  • Hollywood ending.  Ugh.  I understand the intended readership's love of a neatly resolved, romantic ending, but...ugh.
I know it seems like a lot of complaining, but when a series is good, I get disappointed easily.  I like Mead's writing style enough that I'm reading her adult Succubus Blues series (which is awesome so far), but I just didn't like the way the series wound down.  I hope that the spin-offs--starring Sydney, I hear--are rejuvenating, but even if  not, I'm sure they'll be better than most of the shyte that's polluting the genre.

And, btw, what exactly IS the last sacrifice?

Thank you, and good night.

Ink Exchange/Fragile Eternity/Radiant Shadows/Darkest Mercy

I decided to slam the other four Wicked Lovely novels together and treat them as one continuous story--which they are, of course--because it's been too long to discern which faery antics belong to which.  I'll make a quick comment on each before I launch into my bullets, but I may get some details mixed up along the way.  Blame my laziness and the giant coffee sitting next to me.

Ink Exchange
Taking a break from the regulars worked well for me.  By the end of WL, I'd had enough of the love triangle of Keenan-Aislynn-Seth, and since Niall was (at the time) my favorite character, I delighted in the new subplot.  Also, I like tattoos.  The Niall-Leslie-Irial triangle in IE develops darkly.  By the end of the story, we learn why Niall rules so much, and it's not because he's some sort of angelic hero.  Irial is deliciously manipulative, and the subplot wraps up neatly, but not Hollywood neatly.

Fragile Eternity
Apparently, the war is coming.  (Remember, there's a difference between "war" and "War.")  At first, I was looking forward to returning to the Keenen-Aislynn-Seth triangle, but suddenly in this novel, it's some sort of love trapezoid.  Maybe even love amoeba.  I was invested in the characters and engrossed in the Marr world, but I got bored with the drawn-out tension.  I get it:  there's a war coming, there's massive heartache on the horizon, war is coming, everyone has to make difficult decisions, and war is coming. Also, War (a.k.a. Banana) is coming, and she's gonna bring some war with her.  By the end (which isn't really an end), I felt like FE is a placeholder novel.  I liked the evil side of Niall, but Donia started to annoy me--although it's cool when she stabs Aislynn.  Half the time, I wanted to stab her, too.

Radiant Shadows
Devlin.  Ani.  LOVE THEM.  This is my favorite of the series.  Devlin's the most interesting character of all, and I love what Marr did with him.  Ani's his perfect mate.  It's Happily Ever After stuff.  This novel also had the most extreme plot points of all.  New and shattered courts.  Evil Banana plotting to destroy the universe.  Sorcha's stupidity threatening everything.  Love lost, love percolating, love destroying souls.  It renewed my excitement for the series, and it threw me.  It's a perfect ramp up to the final novel.  Bravo!

Darkest Mercy
The breath that I'd held so sweetly after RS came out as a Ppppfffftttttpppplll, not a fulfilled sigh.  Lame!  Not that I hated this novel or anything, but it sure wasn't satisfying as a conclusion to such a rich series.  I hate to say it, but it feels like a rush job, like Marr was done and wanted to move on.

Speaking of moving on...

The bullets here are comments on all four novels, and in some cases, the entire WL story.  Most of my comments from the first novel review still work, but some have changed. 

  • Writing.  Can anyone else in the genre write like this woman?  Not that I've experienced so far.  She is, as I mentioned before, a true writer, an artist, wordsmith, whatever you wanna call it.  Moody, descriptive, clear, engaging, beautifully dark.  I imagine that's what the gothicals feel every time they're doing the Heavy Bowling Ball dance to some Peter Murphy-inspired music.  
  • Balance.  Each character has his or her own importance to the story.  Even many of the secondary characters are developed and mean something to the momentum of the plot. 
  • Loss.  Too many of these parapseudos don't have enough loss.  In Twilight, Bella says something about having experienced so much loss--huh?  Besides her self-worth, I don't know what she's talking about.  Here, though, we have loss of identity, loss of love, loss of life, loss of hope, loss of virginity (woo!), loss of control.  All Southern California readers will identify with all of these losses, as we experience them daily.
  • Mythos.  Marr gets it, and she delivers.  Her courts, her creatures, her social strata, her sense of fairy tale convention--all of it works to create a complete mythos, independent of all other wannabes in the genre.
  • Aislynn burning Seth's sides because she flamed him while riding him.  Hahahahaha!
  • Keenan's sacrifice.  
Disclaimer:  I say "disappointments" because I'd feel weird calling this section something snarky.  This series deserves better than that!  Mostly. 
  • Aislynn.  By FE, Aislynn's waffling starts to get annoying.  DM doesn't do much to assuage it.  She has a sudden burst of all-powerfullness at the end, but by that time, other characters are outshining her, which is lame--she is, after all, supposed to be the center of the plot...right? 
  • Notable absences from the final showdown.  Where the hell's Devlin?  Sorcha?  Why aren't they there to defend their new courts?  Why isn't Sorcha there to battle her freak sister?
  • Sorcha/Seth.  This is just weird.  I don't like to spoil stuff, but how Seth's calling Sorcha "Mother" is a twist I couldn't get into.  
  • Dissipation of feminist themes.  By the end, they're stilted and fit into the humdrum of the rest of the blahblah of the genre I've read so far.  I suppose you could make an argument for the female characters' equality among the courts' leaderships, but they all ache for men and let those aches get in the way of better judgment.  (All except Banana, that is.)
  • Not enough teen sex.  I'm sorry, but I want some loin-twitches when I read these things.  The swelling heart doesn't do it for me...especially since cunnilingus rocked it in WL
  • Talking car/steed.  What's the point of Ani's steed?  Seriously.  Is it some sort of big bro who watches out for her?  What a weird addition to the cast--and maybe even a missed opportunity for evil-doing.
  • Non-contracted faery-talk.  At what point did Aislynn and Seth take speech lessons from a Victorian robot?  I have a hard time imagining a pierced freaky boy saying, "Mother, I do not wish to disappoint you, but I must return."  Is this the same person who went all oral on Aislynn and lived in an abandoned train?  And why does Aislynn have to get all formal when she gains confidence?  These are still teenagers--immortal teenagers, yes, but still.  
  • Niall + Irial = Nairial.  Not into it.  It's a cop out.  By "it," I mean the Body Snatcher bullshit that conveniently transpires when lovely Irial "dies."  I'd rather lose one of my favorite characters than have some sort of bizarro Lazarus thing.
  • Banana's defeat.  Even though the balances shift with the new courts, I still think it's lame that Sorcha didn't battle Banana.  Why the build up then?  Does Devlin really balance Sorcha that well?  Who exactly is Banana's balance?  Aislynn?  Also, it was too easy to beat Banana.  I wanted something much more sinister.  In fact, I would've liked it if Banana were impossible to destroy.
  • Hollywood ending.  Nothing else to say about that.
I reserve the right to add more to this later.  I'm still thinking about WL as I read other series, so it's definitely worth a lot of talk.  Though I was disappointed with the ending of the series, I think it's one that I'll revisit someday.  I'd like to experience the characters again, especially since I know their destinations.

Side note:  I also read Marr's new adult novel, Graveminder.  It gave me a renewed appreciation for WL and its depth.  I hope Marr's not the kind of novelist who hits it with the first few and then belts out a bunch of crapola for the rest of her career.  She's freaky as a person, and I'd like more of that to come through in her future work.

I'm Team Shadow Court, by the way.  Step off.


Wicked Lovely

I asked Cyna of You're Killing Me to suggest some books.  I wanted something well-written, sexy, and page-turny--something, in short, that didn't make me want to take a cheese grater to my brain.  She delivered when she told me about Wicked Lovely, the story of fairy/faerie/faerie love, lust, war. 

I burned through them all so quickly that I'm massively behind in singing their praises.  After much deliberation, I've decided that each novel in the series should get its own post because each is different enough in plot and character that I have to separate them for my own sanity.  If I didn't, I'd be like a six-year-old:  "And then...and then...and then...and then..."

DISCLAIMER:  I may get a few details mixed up between the novels as I go.  That's what happens when you read five books and then sit down to write about them two weeks later.  Oh, well.

  • Controlled writing.  Ms. Marr is a writer.  There's a distinction to be made:  Mellisa Marr = Writer; P. C. Cast/Daughter Cast = hacks.  As I read WL, I smelled stuff, heard stuff, felt stuff--and each sensory detail I devoured actually meant something.  Before writing WL, she had taught community college for 12 years (my sister in pain!), so she knows how to weave a metaphor, knows what story is, is conscious of pace, and knows how to use a goddamn comma.  When I sit down to read a novel, I don't want to feel like I'm reading a giant e.e. cummings poem.  
  • Characters.  While the novel stays true to the parapseudo formula, each character is unique enough that I don't feel like I'm reading Jane Eyre for the 35th time.  Everyone has a great juxtaposition of characteristics.  Aislinn = reckless/cautious.  Seth = independent/protective.  Keenan = conniving/sentimental.  Nial = tortured/vengeful.  Irial = sadomasochistic/romantic.  You get the idea.  Donia = lost/transformative.  There's really a reason to both hate and love each person/fairy.
  • Conflict.  Aislinn couldn't be more teenagerly perfect.  She's got boy problems, friend problems, family problems, sexuality issues.  The only thing missing is insecurity over her belly fat or a dying dog.  Keenan's in quite a bind, and readers will find that they want him to win, even at the cost of everyone else losing.  Seth is being set up for the loss of a lifetime (or so he thinks), and he's gotta deal with massive disappointment on the tail of fighting for his penetration rights.  The conflicts deepen and resolve seamlessly; great forethought on the author's part makes this possible, as without proper plotting, it could be a nightmare.
  • Cunnilingus.  That's right.  Oral sex.  Teen girls do that, ya know.  And they like it!  Bravo, Ms. Marr.
  • Tainted fairy tale.  Whereas Holly Black's Valiant doesn't actually play too much with the fairy tale conventions, WL is a near-perfect modernization of the traditional form.  You could hold it next to many of the old Germanic and Scandinavian tales, and it would fit right in.  There are royal beasts, fantastic realms, natural magical forces, light/dark powers, humans manipulated by hidden creatures, and all the other good stuff that we dream about and fear when we're kids.  WL could easily be the story a dad tells his kids in parts as he tucks them in at night or a campfire story that has everyone running off to cower and/or have sex in their tents.
  • Feminist themes.  The feminine powers balance the masculine powers at almost all levels.  I'm not talking about Aislinn's need to be loved making her a weak character vs. sex-charged men feminism.  I mean the feminine and masculine on equal fields of power, control, respect, desire, conflict.  Love it.
  • Point-of-view slips.  Overall, the omniscience is controlled remarkably well considering how many heads we flit between.  Sometimes, though, perceptive shifts threw me off.  For example, if we're in ABC's thoughts, we flip to DEF's eyes for just a second to comment on ABC's posture.  And then back to ABC again for the rest of the time.  It can be distracting and a cause a re-read, which I hate doing.
  • Thoughts intertwined with prose.  This is Ms. Marr's signature (as I'm fining out while reading Graveminder, her new novel).  I don't like to harp on a writer's style--especially a massively great author--but the way thoughts mingle with regular stuff is weird.  The character will be noticing something, and then an italicized line will appear--a thought.  Example:  "The duck saw the piece of bread floating. It had been so long since Ducky had gobbled up a piece of food. My stomach aches for nourishment.  Ducky charged up his webbed feet and dashed across the pond."
  • The fairy kingdom's name.  Faery.  Huh?  Fairies are from Faery?  That's like saying people are from Person.  It annoyed me almost as much as "poopy" from The House of Night series.
  • Research.  Obviously the author knows her stuff.  But I want to know it, too.  What's a rowan? What's a Scrimshaw Sister?  There's other stuff, too, but since I never really knew what it was, I don't remember now what it was called.  I love an author who researches, but as a reader, I don't want to take time to look it up myself.  Context lets you figure it out to a certain extent, but I'd like some history (especially since in later installments lineage and culture seem to matter so much).
  • Freaky character names.  Bananach?  I eventually just called her Banana as I read.  Yeah, and is her name Banana or War?  Depends on which sentence you're reading, I guess.  Aislinn?  Is that AYslinn or EYEslinn?  And how is her nickname Ash?  Why not just always call her Ash?  And then among all that are Seth and Leslie, which makes the name thing even more of an issue.


On a Roll

I've recently busted through seven books--working on my eighth.  I imagine I'll get through about 10 before I'm able to post again.  By then, though, finals will be over, and I'll be able to slam all 10 out while I bask in my freedom from paper grading and tearful student begging.

On deck:  All the Wicked Lovely novels, Need, all the Vampire Academy novels.

Back to my self-pitying hell...



The cover of this novel lies.  When I first unpacked it, I hmphed and took it right over to my mother's.  I'm tired of reading novels with girls' half-faces on them.  It's depressing--because if half a face is that remarkably gorgeous, then the rest of the face on a perfect neck on a pair of milky shoulders on a flawless body alienates me from the teen world even more.

Still, it's what's between the covers that counts, right?  This time, yes.

This is a story about some woofs and their follies.  (I'm trying to diversify my parapseudo consumption to include all forms of freaky beings, but so far, it's woofs, vamps, faeries, and unclassified immortals.  I guess that's the sexy stuff the kids go for.)  Woof clans and their wacky mating rituals makes for an interesting backdrop to yet another story of a girl tortured by her longing for two boys.

  • Believable teenagers. And they go through believable teenage problems.  Yes, they're woofs and whatnot, but they have to deal with hormones, popularity, relationships, bucking tradition.  None of the junk that I compare to Dawson's Creek, where the kids are smarter than any 15-year-old ever bred (except, I guess, Doogie Hauser).
  • Conflict.  There's nothing like a story of a character with tooth-grindingly difficult choices to make.  The protag, Calla, has to choose between her heritage, her loins, her heart, and her freedom.  I like that.  I also like that the story has guaranteed that whichever choice she makes will piss someone off in a big way.  
  • Characters.  I actually care for once.  I don't know why.  It's not like these characters are any different from the other parapseudo kids.  There's a dynamic that moves their relationships along, though, and each relationship's dynamic is unique.  Calla is a rebel, shirking everyone's expectations.  Ren is a real surprise, different from the usual jerk who tempts the brainless girl toward her demise.  Shay is a great distraction for both of them.  The best part?  They're all hornier than hell, and they're not afraid to go for it in the girls' bathroom!
  • Socially relevant.  There's racial, class, gender, sexuality, and institutional implications throughout, catapulting the story leagues above many of the other parapseudos I've so gladly buzzed through.  The richie riches control the workers.  The workers think they're doing their part for a tradition the richies have convinced them is symbiotic.  There are closeted gays taken advantage of by other closeted gays.  Alpha women bowing to alpha men.  Outsiders being initiated by the powerful.  It's fun!
  • Evil undercurrent.  Even when things seem to be going the right way, there's a darkness that lingers in the shadows.  No, really.  There are shadows that are evil.  Wraiths, actually.  You know.  Evil shadows.  Anyway, they're pretty scary--but could be a lot scarier.  I want to see the wraiths in action.  Don't close the door!  I want to see why they're legendary.  There are also scary succubi and incubi that emerge from the walls--sort of.  And some of the leaders are just Satan.
  • Woof stuff.  When the characters are in their woof forms, they crave hot, bloody meat, so they take down deer and rip into them.  Hahahaha!  It's radical.
  • Giant spider.
  • Forced sequel purchase.  It pretty much ends at the climax.  Readius interruptus.
  • Calla's mother.  She's too fluffy to have raised such a strong young woman.  She's all about lace and tradition.  And she's scared of all the richie riches.
  • No important deaths.  There's a lot of possibility, but no one worthwhile dies.  Not that I wanted Shay or Ren to bite it--but how about a beta woof or an important relationship?
  • Too many secondary characters.  They blend together until the very end--and even then, I don't really know who's who or who likes what or who is the higher ranking woof.
  • Setting.  I want more, as usual.  When I teach creative writing, I encourage students to pay keen attention to setting, as it's often more important than secondary characters in indicating key changes in plot, characterization, and conflict.  Okay.  Enough of that.  I just want to see, hear, smell, and touch every damn place--even a library!  Actually, especially the library in this case because some serious emotional and physical damage takes place there.
I like this woof story a lot.  In fact, I think I like it more than Linger, which is pretty lame, considering Shiver is one of my favorite parapseudos out of the trove.  The sexy is quiveringly sexy.  And sexy.  Goosebumps.  Wait...is my saying so constituted as child porn?  I hope not.  If so, please contact Cyna.



Ms. Noel has accomplished a grand feat in her Immortals series.  She has surpassed The House of Night and the Twilight saga as the lamest in the Mariana Trench of lameness.  God, that sounds mean.  I don't mean it to be.  Some parapseudo authors would love to be among the ranks of such bestsellers.

In the tradition of my Blue Moon: Review in Haiku!, I had planned on writing a sonnet about the unfurling love story of Ever and Damen.  I got about 8 lines in before I realized that it was demanding 10,000 times more thinking power than reading the novel did, and since I'm not getting paid for my creative writing expertise, I quit.

For future reference, "masturbate" is a great match for "consummate" when you're dealing with iambic pentameter about teens who can't knock boots.

Just a quick plot update:  Ever and Damen can't exchange any DNA or Damen will burn up, so no kissing and other hanky-panky; Roman lurks around and moves in on Haven, Ever's gothical blue-banged friend; Jude--dreadlocked, tanned, toned, and only slightly imperfect (apparently, he didn't visit the orthodontist)--emerges on the scene as yet another young man who wants to diddle Ever.

THE MERIT (Yes, only one this time)
  • Humor.  Though it's unintentional, the author threw some pretty funny stuff on the page.  For example, since Ever and Damen can no longer swap spit, Ever gets lost in Damen's telepathic embraces and melts into his telepathic kisses.  Hahahahahahaha!  See?  That's the funny stuff for sure.
  • Dudes.  Instead of bringing another guy into the already annoying mix, why not just work on wrapping things up with the ones we've grown to despise?  What's the point of further complicating a love triangle by constructing some sort of love trapezoid?
  • More of the same.  They pine.  They grumble about pining.  They look for a way to be together.  They question their loyalties.  The end.
  • Manifesting.  Cheap trick.  They can just use the immortal power (why are they like Superman?) to conjure up anything they want.  Ever manifests a Lamborghini when she needs to drive fast.  They manifest plasma screens and images of people--images so real that they can dance a minuet with them.  But then there's this one scene that pissed me off.  So Ever manifests herself a parking place in downtown Laguna Beach--a place notorious for no parking and quarter-hungry meters.  Wouldn't she have to extend the sidewalk for that?  How does one just add a parking space when there's no road left to occupy?  Even worse, when she gets out of her car, she has to feed the meter.  Huh?  Why would she manifest a meter?  And then why didn't she manifest one that was always full?  And then why didn't she manifest the quarters to push in?  
  • The Twilight trick.  It's almost as bad as "It was all a dream."  I'll call it the Psychic Condom.  Damen manifests a mind film that allows them to touch and kiss and cry on each other without fear of flaming Damen to hell (a.k.a. Shadowland)--just like Bella's massively important special vampish power turns out to be a giant psychic jelly shield.  Therefore, Ever and Damen are free to get it on whenever they want.  Very, very lame.
  • Writing.  I really almost can't take it.  It hurts me in the way that freshman composition research papers hurt me--deep in my soul, where no spectacular psychic condom can save me.  I can't really blame Ms. Noel for this, though.  Her editor must be shit.  I can see that what she's trying to do with the adverbial phrases.  I really can.  But it's annoying when 1/3 of the whole damn story is written in distracting sentence fragments.  And then there's the flipside:  the hideous comma splice.  It has no place in a story that sells on a bookshelf with the brag-line of "The New York Times Bestselling Author."  
  • No one ever goes to the damn Shadowland.  In fact, all we see of it was a quick Spock-like mind-meld, blink-of-an-eye glimpse.  And it's basically just a dark, lonely hole that one falls into (somewhat like reading the novel...).
I really could go on, but I don't want to.  Shadowland is a bummer, and the more I think about it, the more annoyed I get.  This novel may be the one that breaks my rule of finishing all series that I begin.  I don't care about what happens to Ever, Damen is no longer sexy, Roman is a caricature, and Jude is boring.  Without at least one sympathetic character, a story has nothing.  And no matter how many new characters an author pops into a plot, that doesn't change.



Linger is the second of a trilogy (so far), and it does that aggravating thing of forcing a sequel.  I can handle that with movies, but it's lame with novels. At least resolve a subplot or two!  I'm not asking for much.

That said, I pretty much liked a majority of some of the many things about the novel that could be liked by many readers or maybe just a few.  Yes.  No.  Maybe.  That's how I feel about this novel.  It's true.

  • Provocative/evocative.  There's this scene with a deer.  And this other sexy scene.  And drug abuse.  And a ton of nudity.  Maybe not a ton, but enough to be a significant part of Cole's characterization.
  • New character, old favorite.  I can't help it.  I like Cole.  Is it his track marks?  His death wishes?  The way he's unapologetically sexual.  It's like the boy I wanted to abuse love me in high school!  He develops perfectly by the end of this installment of the story, so I look forward to more in Forever, the third.  And then I forgot how much I liked Isabel in Shiver until I read her again in this novel.  She's my favorite kind of bitch--snotty, snarky, and vulnerable.  She's the perfect match for Cole.  In fact, they made the novel for me.  (More on that later.)
  • Realistic conflicts.  Once again, the author pleases me by not making the paranormal aspect the central issue.  It lingers (har har) in subplot limbo, right where I like it.  Grace's parents finally figure into everything, which is good--because I just wasn't buying the whole Sam-sneak-in-every-night thing from Shiver.  I'd like some friend tension between Grace and Isabel or Rachel, but I suppose that wish is fulfilled by Cole/Victor and Sam/Cole.  Of course nothing I just wrote makes sense to anyone who hasn't read the novel.
  • Style.  I like Stiefvater's writing style overall.  She's not flowery, not plain.  There's a natural pace to her prose.  I buy the figurative language.  I don't feel like I'm swimming in a writer's ego or that an editor had to rewrite sections.
  • Structure.  The flip-turn POV works for me.  The momentum is steady, and I actually like the switch in perspectives between moments.  I've always wanted to have a super power like that.  One minute I'm watching my husband go into the bathroom, and then when he locks the door, I'm him, and I get to experience peeing standing up.  That would be sweet!
  • Imbalanced characterization.  I love Isabel and Cole, but Sam and Grace are getting kinda boring.  There's energy/chemistry between Isabel and Cole--maybe because he's always naked?  Probably because they as characters are more dynamic, with a ton more going on in their lives.  But Sam and Grace are supposedly in love, so shouldn't there be some magical sparks flying around them?  Apparently not.  They're like an old married couple already!  I'm totally on Team I+C.
  • Again, the parents.  I complained that in the first novel, the lack of parental involvement detracted from the story.  Well, now they're overbearing and always pissed off.  How does that work?  Grace seems to wonder the same thing.  The problem is that we don't see the core of their behavior, so they just seem like background annoyances--like when your sweater gets stuck on the edge of the car door, and you suddenly find you're nearly on the ground with a hole in the back of your favorite fashion accessory.
  • Confusion.  I'm asking myself at this point: What is this story about?  I'm enjoying the day-to-day of the characters, but I'm not sure that's getting me anywhere.  I've got a ton of questions about authorial plot choices.  One:  Why is Victor in the story?  I don't really care that he croaks (sorry--it's not that important), and Cole's reaction isn't justified for me.  I'm ready for something more clearly significant to happen--keyword: clear.  
I'm not sure how I feel about this story.  Seriously.  When I think of Twilight, I feel a bad something.  When I think of A Great and Terrible Beauty, I feel a good something.  When I think of Linger, I don't feel much of anything, other than I want to see Dirty and Bitchy get it on some more.  I don't dislike the story.  I don't love the story.  It doesn't make me want to go Oedipus and poke my eyes out, nor does it make me want to fantasize about a film cast. 

Maybe it's my own emotional vacancy--something that happens at the end of every semester, just about the time the research papers start rolling in.  I just don't know.


The Dead-Tossed Waves

This is the sequel to The Forest of Hands and Teeth, which (to put it lightly) I didn't like.  At all.  In fact, when I finished The Forest of HaT, I was pissed off--something that hadn't happened since I finished Breaking Dawn.

The Dead-Tossed Waves had sat on my shelf (a.k.a. the floor by the uncomfortable chair) for weeks before I picked it up and decided--with a huff and a sigh--to finally dive in and get it over with.  However, to my delight, something happened about 20 pages in, and after that, I couldn't stop.  I didn't want to stop.

How is it that a first book can suck so much, but its sequel rule the zombie lit world?  I have no idea, but that's what happened.

  • Characters.  I like every single character in here, except for the ones I hate, but I'm supposed to hate them, so I like them.  Huh?  Each character is unique from the others.  Each has something to donate to the conflict and resolution.  Each has a stake in the outcome of situations.  Imagine that--a cast of characters who actually work together.  It's like a Robert Altman film. 
  • Emotions.  We see them and feel them without being told they exist.  Boys cry in this one.  I like that.  Desire is palpable.  My favorite:  Gabry wants to kiss Catcher so badly (but can't--read why), so as he's tracing her forbidden lips with his thumb, she slips her tongue out to taste him.  Excellent!  The emptiness of loss is realistic in the chaotic world of survival. 
  • Shock and suspense.  Stephenie Meyer could use a shot of sense when it comes to this.  She should read this book and weep, realizing that a story is always better when there is massive conflict--conflict piled upon conflict--and characters have a reason to experience a range of emotions.  I was scared as I read this--nervous about what the author would create next.  Who would get zombified?  Who would get arrested?  Who would die?  This story throws it in your face right away, giving you a real reason to read on.  Something has to keep me reading beyond the special pre-teen loins tickle that I get (no, I don't!) when lips brush along collarbones and all that.  This story absolutely delivers.
  • Balance.  Part love, part confusion, part horror, part survival, part social commentary, part critique of human nature--and a lot more.  Seriously.  But nothing takes over.  It's all seamlessly soldered.  It's like having one of those really weird dishes at a fancy-shmancy restaurant.  Who the hell knew that lotus root, fish eyes, and pancreas juice would taste so lovely?
  • Mood.  The desperation and desolation of this post-apocalyptic world is tangible.  The constant moaning of the zombies (reminds me of my college days in San Francisco), the ruined villages and cities, the decay of American icons...brilliant.
  • Uncategorized awesomeness.  Pet zombies with their lower jaws hacked off by white-robe-wearing religious weirdos.  Almost rape turning into actual murder.  No tidy answers to anything.  An ending that doesn't guarantee happiness.  (All hail non-Hollywood endings, a la Seven!).
THE Ppppppfffffttttttt
  • Frustrating female.  Again!  Another girl who blames herself for every single tiny meaningless thing that's ever gone wrong in the history of the universe.  If she'd only blinked twice instead of once, the do do bird might not have gone extinct!  Yes, it's that bad.  My mother argues that parapseudos are indicative of teen girls' fantasy lives.  If that's the case, I want to shake every teen girl and scream, "DON'T BELIEVE THE BULLSHIT!  EVE DIDN'T DESTROY THE WORLD!  SHE THOUGHT INDEPENDENTLY!  SHE TOOK WHAT SHE WANTED!"  Ugh.  Why do all these authors create girl protags motivated by guilt?  Are they all Catholic?
  • The Envelope.  The author stuffs it, licks the glue, puts the stamp on, addresses it, but doesn't push it.  (Even I cringed at that one...)  A little more aggressive controversy would be fantastic.  Don't just have a character curl her hands into white-knuckled fists.  Make her use them!  Punch that jerk in the throat!  Don't just have lips brushing lips with strange moans emitting from the backs of throats.  Have some wandering fingers!
So here's my dilemma.  This sequel is up there with the Gemma Doyles and the Mortal Instruments for me, but the first installment is down there with Twilight and House of Night.  But in order to enjoy Dead-Tossed fully, you have to have read Hands and Teeth.  How can I tell someone, "You have to read Totally Awesome, but in order to enjoy it fully, you have to read Sucks So Hard."

Here's something weird:  I want to read this one again.  Right now.  Instead, I'm gonna order the third work in the series and see where it fits on the spectrum.  And if it's even 1/2 as good as Dead-Tossed, then I'm gonna reread Hands and Teeth to see if I was missing something.  Otherwise, it's like saying Nightmare on Elm Street 2 & 3 were better than the first--which we all know is the untruest of all untruths.


Blue Moon: A Review in Haiku!

It's a departure from my usual form because I NEED a departure from the parapseudo norm.  I'm sure I'll return quickly to my safe, rambling posts.  I was tempted to go Full Bitch on this one (but that's only because I'm so tired of grading research papers); instead, I decided to cram my snark into 17-syllable jabs.  

A girl named Ever
after four hundred years is
still a virgin.

Her virginity
is a commodity that
Damen can't afford

which is weird because,
like the Cullens, his wealth is

Elixir of life
to miserable mortals:
weird, red Gatorade.

Ever loves Damen.
Ever hates Roman. Roman
hates Damen.  The end.

Roman hates Damen
cuz he thinks he killed that bitch
Drina.  He is wrong.

Roman mind-controls
Ever's pathetic high school.
Boring bad boy tricks.

So here's the good stuff:
Story?  Nah.  Characters?  Nope.
Wait.  Just let me think...

No penetration,
no shivering, gasping kiss.
They call this romance?

If I wanted to
read about time traveling,
I'd read H.G. Wells.

Laguna Beach is
breathtakingly beautiful--
but not in this book;

instead, it is as
plain as the paper the words
have been printed on.

Back to Rogue Roman,
a young immortal orphan.

Another blondish
jerk with teeth like white Chiclets--
True Laguna Beach.

Will Ever ever
(in her words ) "jump Damen's bones"?
All we care about.

Damen sure knows how
to unhook a bra damn fast...
but not fast enough

cuz Ever puts the
kibosh on sex.  Don't worry!
Roman screws them both.

Hardy har!  I think of this exercise as a microcosm of what the author must've gone through--trying to shove awkward junk into a space that doesn't work.  She's trying too hard for my taste.  Trying to weave too much story together.  Leaving me with questions about simple stuff--like who the hell cares about these kids?  Wondering why she writes so many fragmented sentences starting with -ing verbs.  Ending ideas before they...



This is from Holly Black's series called "modern faerie tales." There are three in the series so far, and from what I can tell by reading Valiant, which is apparently the second, each can stand on its own.  I appreciate that. 

In fact, I'd like more authors to write each novel in a series as a stand-alone story--like a sitcom.  You can watch an episode and still get it.  I'm getting annoyed by cliffhanger serial endings, especially when the new one's not coming out for a year.  I guess that's what the screaming teenagers felt about the next Beatles album.

But I digress...

  • Grunge.  It's set in the squatter world, and it works.  I spent a whole summer with San Francisco squatters, and I can attest to the verisimilitude of some of Black's imagery.  Bug-ridden clothes.  Washing out underwear in bathroom sinks.  Drug addiction.  Violence.  Fear.  At times, I cringed at the smells, textures, attitudes.  A wonderful change from the flawless jerk/silent girl story.
  • Female protag who isn't a princess waiting to be rescued.  It was so refreshing to read about a girl who is hurt, goes Brittney Spears crazy, places herself in danger (with no one to tell her not to), has "whatever, why not?" sex, struggles with drug addiction, learns to fight, and loves a scary creature with teeth that rip his lips apart.  It's actually much more realistic than any of the other stories I've read.  Period.
  • Faerie stuff.  I know...it's the focus of the story.  But I just didn't get into it.  First of all, there wasn't any reason to the variance of faerie types.  Why did some have bird faces while others had antlers jutting out of their eyebrows?  What are their origins?  What are their jobs?  Are they evil, or what?
  • Reality/fantasy transition.  For the first 1/3 of the novel, we're down and dirty in the subway tunnels, watching the protag get addicted to some sort of faerie dust.  There are hints of faerie here and there, but nothing crazy.  Then ALAKAZAM!  Suddenly we're in a world where everyone has a bizarre name, horns, black lips, hooves, etc.  People get turned into dogs and then shot.  A mermaid is found murdered.  It isn't a smooth transition, and I found myself wishing I were back in the non-faerie world.  Maybe that's just my old, non-parapseudo preferences creeping back in...
  • Sympathetic characters.  Although I liked the variance of characters, I really didn't care what happened to them.  I liked the love interest enough, but I didn't really feel any chemistry there.  The dynamics between the characters is flat because the characters are static.  I'm ready for a story that has characters who move me!
  • Faerie tale?  I finished the novel and wondered about the point of what I'd just read.  It boldly claims to be a "faerie tale," yet it doesn't have the earmarks of the genre (outside telling us that there are faeries running around in a glamour costume).  Granted, in some ways it's the anti-faerie tale--somewhat like "Beauty and the Beast," where the damsel rescues the prince.  Still, I was looking forward to a thoughtful retelling of a story within one of the oldest genres in oral tradition.  I don't think it delivered.
I'll read the others in Holly Black's series when I need a break from the yearning helpless girl battling her love for the handsome asshole.  Black's stories are gritty, filled with F-bombs, and they don't play around with innocence.  I felt more of a connection with this protag than most of the others I've encountered because her pain is real--and even though these stories are set in fantasy, I still need humanity to provide an anchor.



Lauren Kate has done it again!

And I don't mean she wrote another great book.  I mean that she's told the same story that I've read 30+ times.  In fact, as I was reading it, I was thinking, Is this Hush, Hush?  The answer:  pretty much.

  • Writing.  It's easy to read, with the right balance between exposition and figurative language.  It doesn't depend on flowery language to carry the reader through a marsh of bad story like some of the parapseudos I've read.  The style was enough keep my interest (even though I was pissed about reading the formula--again).
  • Characters.  I like batshit people, so I appreciate when an author can write a nutso character realistically.  Dreadlocks tied up in little pom-poms?  Yes.  Freaky hair colors?  Yep.  Snappy outcast vernacular?  Yes!  But the characters were varied enough so that I didn't think Ms. Kate is a frustrated grown-up goth.  
  • Pace.  I always appreciate a story that has momentum.  I like to finish novels, and if a story lags, I get annoyed.  This novel is 450-ish pages, and I finished it in a day-and-a-half, including long breaks when I had to "work." 
  • Good ol' good vs. evil.  When it's done right, it can give me shivers.  Yeah, this one wasn't like that, but it tried.  I appreciate the effort.
  • SSDA (Same Shit, Different Author).  Self-explanatory.
  • Unfulfilled fallen angel promise.  When are these fallen angel stories gonna come through with the SATAN thing?  I'm very ready for some super evil, the oldest evil, the unconditional evil--but sexy.  It almost come through with the Hush, Hush plot, but it fell short when Patch turned into a love sap.  In Fallen, I wanted a twist on the fallen angel thing.  Alas, SSDA.
  • Setting.  A reform school could've been radical.  But no one did anything bad!  They were typical high school students, only some of them pierced their faces up.  I'd have liked some commentary on youth criminality or reform culture.  Obviously, the author just wanted to have an easy setting for rejects.  But she forgot to draw the rejects as they'd really be.
  • Kissing.  Yet another story that makes kissing a deadly pursuit.  Yet another story that has lips hovering all over the place and then fierce, mashing face sucking.  Yet another story that characterizes kissing as life changing.  SSDA.  (And a new subject for the Pro/Con page.)
  • Depth of character.  Yes, the characters are fun...but I don't give a damn about what happens to them.  Luce (who I was hoping would be Lucifer--wouldn't that have been a perfect twist?) is flat--another confused, yearning girl.  Daniel is another reluctant hero--just like Jace, Patch, Edward, and all the other dumbasses.  Cam is an under-developed baddy--not seductive enough, not evil enough, not dynamic.
  • No real mythos.  I'm ready for a novel that really gets into the mythos of angels--fallen or not--and shows some real effort for research.  Is it too much to expect authors to respect young minds enough to research their topics?  Why leave that up to old men authors like Elmore Leonard?  
  • The "shadows."  Like so much in the story, it takes too long to find out what they are, so by the time you do, you're annoyed by them.  Black, gooey tentacles that pulse around eternally on the ceiling, never really causing any damage.  I wanted the Blob.  How about some soul devouring?
  • Loose end.  What really happened with Trevor?  Did Cam light him on fire?  Did Daniel kill him out of jealousy?  Did Luce kiss him to death?
So the overall verdict?  Better than Hush, Hush, but that's not a full endorsement.  It'll go down as the novel that made me realize that I'm reading Wuthering Heights over and over and over.

Still, there must be something to the formula, or else I wouldn't keep reading.  There's got to be some cultural gender stuff happening here--more than the obvious.  After reading Fallen, though, I don't know if I can make it to my 100 goal.  And maybe I don't need to.

Next up, faeries and more vampires.  How about a vampire faerie?  Or a vampire angel?  Or a demon marmoset?  I'm desperate for something new!


Yesterday, as I plugged through Fallen, by Lauren Kate, I hit a wall.  How many times can I read the same story?


City of Fallen Angels

After reading Clockwork Angel, my hopes for Clary and Jace fizzled.  Not everyone can write a good Victorian-era novel from a modern keyboard.  Libba Bray--yes.  Cassandra Clare--doesn't look like it.  What Clare can do is write a pretty rad urban parapseudo.  City of Fallen Angels is proof that despite the bordering-on-fan-fiction feel of CA, Clare's still got something to deliver.

My previous comments on the novels in this series included a very culture-studies approach to the merits of the story.  Those comments still apply here--with a minor exception for the development of the Alec/Magnus homosexual relationship.  This parapseudo author does a great job dealing with issues of class, sexuality, race, gender, and contended space.  Plus there's sufficient groping to pique even the stuffiest reader's interest.

  • Character consistency.  Clary's still frustrating yet sympathetic.  Simon's still unsure of his awesomeness.  Jace is still a lovely prick.  Maryse is still a hen-peck. Isabelle is still boiling honey.  Magnus is still Magnus.  It makes it easier to pick up the story when you're reading something written by an author who really knows her characters.  Obviously, Clare has spent a lot of time romping with these people in her mind.  I'm a little disappointed that the characters have been slow to develop realistically--especially Jace--but more on that in the Bummers section below.
  • Getting a little racy!  Clary with her legs wrapped around Jace, up against the wall in a dark alley.  Clary whipping her shirt off and rolling around in her bed with topless Jace.  I STILL want to see Simon and Isabella behind closed doors!  Let's give Isabella a tangible sexuality.  Will it be as exciting as her usual oozing?  I'd imagine Simon would bring a new dimension to it. Looking forward to a little woofy style with Maia and Jordan.
  • Setting.  Once again, Clare provides a sexy, grungy, scary, concrete world.  (Reminds me of my college life in San Francisco.)  The characters move through the glamoured New York, and I'm thrilled to piggyback, experiencing corner diners, bachelor pads, the illustrious Institute, suburbia, and the city pavement.  It's just the right amount to keep me rooted in reality while I suspend my disbelief.  I'm so glad that we don't have to visit Italy in order to mingle with the Shadowhunter royalty (Twilight and Tempted was enough for me).  They can just pop through a portal and join the ichor-slinging brawl.
  • Story.  What could possibly happen now that Idris is saved and Clary/Jace can have legal relations?  A lot.  Although some of it's pretty predictable--Jace will be a jerk, Simon will have vampire stage fright, Clary will lament her estrogenic problems--the conflicts work, and the surprises are gnarly!  
  • Females are central to the whole damn thing.  Clary, Isabella, Maia, Jocelyn, Camille, Maureen, and Lilith. Yes, Lilith.  THE Lilith.  I'd have liked to see Lilith poke around earlier in the story--maybe befriend Isabella or something.  I'm glad to see Isabella softening a little, and I like the way Camille is developing into a horrible bitch.  These ladies drive the whole story, even if they're a little weak or wormy here and there.
  • Alec.  What happened to him?  Why's he all whiny and pouty?  I don't like the new jealous complainer that Alec's become.  I like his edge from the previous three novels.  The direction his relationship with Magnus is taking doesn't thrill me.
  • Jace's new reason to be an idiot.  It's very Edward Cullenish.  He doesn't want to hurt Clary, doesn't want to kill her.  So the best thing, obviously, is to avoid and ignore her--but then to profess his love every time she corners him.  Lame.  And the explanation at the end is a little too convenient.  Rune zombie?  No thanks.
  • Feels a little rushed.  The pacing of the previous three worked miracles.  CoFA could've been tweaked to stretch out the Lilith/Camille issue.  At the same time, the Tracksuit Killaz subplot could've taken up more time.  The big whammy at the end kinda just pops out there with no real lead up.  Fun for Paranormal Activity; not so fun for a rich novel.
  • No real risks.  I'm ready for someone important to die.  I vote for Jocelyn.  Either someone needs to die, or Jace to go away for a whole novel, or the Silent Brothers to kidnap Clary, or something else super shocking. 
Bottom line:  Really, really, really liked it (which is only slightly different from loving it).  It was nearly everything I'd hoped for, despite my minor complaints.  I don't want to wait another year for the next Clary/Jace complications.  Until then, I'll continue reading parapseudos that are--on the whole--chasing the general excellence of the Mortal Instruments series...and never getting even close to gaining.


Hush, Hush

Finally!  A parapseudo with strong enough writing that I didn't feel like I was mourning my mind as I read it.  When something is written well enough, I'm more likely to make concessions for story and character.  I'm hopeful to find a parapseudo that does it all.  While Hush, Hush isn't this elusive savior, it gives me hope.

  • Writing quality.  I want to elaborate more on this.  What the hell is good writing?  My college creative writing students have asked me that on many occasions--usually, of course, when it's evident that theirs isn't.  I usually keep it to ultra-fancy words:  engagingly robust...verisimilitudinous.  Becca Fitzpatrick commands her diction, controls her figurative language, economizes her imagery.  It's a rich and fast (like Aphrodite from House of Night).
  • Titillation.  I got the nether-region rollercoasters a couple times.  I disagree with the Amazon reviewers who call Patch another Edward.  Edward is like a silicon oven mitt.  Patch is like warm honey.  He's versed in aggressive innuendo, and you get the feeling that he's probably pretty good on the follow-through, too.
  • Realistic girl/boy attraction issues.  Of all the parapseudos I've read, this is the only one where the main male love interest is in a constant state of Must-Remove-Her-Pants.  Nora is scared of Patch, not necessarily because he's dark and mysterious--but because of he makes her want to unleash her inner passion flower.  And speaking of flowers, we have no idea whether she's a virgin or not, and there's no sense of humiliation that goes with her sexuality.  She's not thrilled about the attraction, but it's not an abomination.  She's not afraid that she'll lose her reputation, her pride, her soul.  And Patch certainly isn't worried about it, either.
  • Natural teen talk.  It's told from a sophomore's P.O.V., but it lacks the immaturity of that awkward adolescent phase.  It's also no "Dawson's Creek," where all the 15-year-olds speak like Troilus and Cressida.  Here I'll bring out the big gun:  verisimilitude.  Instead of ramming ridiculous slang into every corner of my brain (a la P.C & Kristin Cast), it's like having a conversation with one of my high school tutoring students.  
  • Stand-alone potential.  A reader could stop right here.  Yes, there are a couple more (so far), but the narrative arc plays out.  You don't feel like you're reading a set up for a slew of future exploits.  
  • A mother who gives a damn about what happens to her daughter.  To a point, anyway.  I get it:  what teen girl wants to read about a character with parents as strict as her own?  However, in so many of these novels (as I've commented before), the parents are absent, uncaring, foolish, blind, or otherwise incapacitated to the point that the protagonist must essentially raise her- or himself.
  • Mythos.  I love the idea of fallen angels, and in this one, I love the V scar where a fallen angel's wings have been ripped off.  I'd like a LOT more about the ranks of angels, their jobs, what roles they've played in history, etc.  And I'd like to see more than one fallen angel--maybe one who's more demonic than longing for humanity.  Then they could fight, ripping each others' shirts off and sweating all over the place!  Do angels sweat?
  • Characterization.  I have to admit that these people aren't the most dynamic I've encountered.  Patch remains Patchy.  Nora remains Norish.  Vee never learns.  I place Nora--the protagonist--between the two secondary characters because that's kind of where she is on my spectrum of interest.  Patch is definitely the most interesting of the three, and I always have a problem when I prefer the secondary characters.
  • Names.  First, the title.  Every time--and I mean every time--I read the title, I hear one of two things:  1) Paula Abdul singing "Rush, Rush" or 2) me being a bitch and chirping "Hush, hush, children!" when my college students are chatting when I'm trying to impart my immense wealth of indispensable knowledge unto them.  Then there's Patch.  How is Patch the name of a sexy fallen angel?  And Vee.  I'm not going to get into why that name bugs me.  I'm sure you can imagine.
  • Positioning of climax.  There is a massive amount of rising action, and it leads to a revelation that should've taken place much sooner.  In this way, Twilight got something right.  Bella figures it out pretty early, whereas Nora doesn't get into the angel stuff until the story's wrapping up.  Maybe that's a little extreme.  But I had a hard time with the wrap up.  It didn't seem rushed, really.  It was just all crammed into the last 1/3 of the story.  
  • Prologue.  It's disconnected from the rest of the story.  It takes place in some distant marshland like 500 years before Nora and Patch flirt their way through Maine.  I can go for that...as long as there's some sort of flashback here and there that links the prologue to the dynamics of the plot.  Or at least a couple tangible clues.  
  • Elliot and Jules.  These characters are placeholders.  Elliot actually has a reason to be there, but without that prologue connection, he's just a confusing ass.  Jules is so mysterious that he's a mystery until the end of the mysterious mystery of part of the plot. 
Despite the "Highway to Heaven" ending, the predictability of some events, the static characters, AND the imbalance of my good/bad list, I had a fantastic time reading this one.  I think I may force my husband to read it, and then practice innuendo-ing like Patch--and, yes, for this character, "innuendo" is indeed a verb.

The next one in this series is called Torment.  I only hope that it's not an authorial promise. 


Clockwork Angel

EDIT:  I re-read this post and was disappointed with the lack of wit.  What happened to my snark?  Why didn't I talk about the teen-porn?  I can only figure that this post is somehow paranormally linked to the novel itself--and, like the novel, lacks all the fabulous qualities of the author's usual voice.

Usually I hop right in when I write these things (as is probably obvious), but this one I'm really struggling with.  I don't know how to start because I don't know how I feel about the Clockwork Angel experience.  It's almost like Gemma Doyle and Jace Wayland got together and tried to write a joint autobiography--part Victorian England girl-with-altered-reality, part snarky-sexy-tortured Shadowhunter.

I don't want to say I'm disappointed because I really had fun reading it.  Maybe I just had elevated expectations for the first of The Infernal Devices series.  That's a lot coming from me, though.  I really have very lower-than-low expectations for most of the parapseudos I read.

  • Comfortable.  If you have enjoyed The Mortal Instruments series, you'll be generally pleased.  The writing quality remains some of the best in the genre, the characters all fit the mold well, and the action is still often breathtaking.  We all love to hear the first single off our favorite artist's album and bathe in the familiarity of the guitar or sigh along with the singer's voice. This first installment of The Infernal Devices is kinda like that.
  • The bad guys.  I adore the Dark Sisters.  They have the potential to fit in with some of my favorite evil bitches:  Elizabeth Bathory, blood bath maven; Cruella De Ville, PETA enemy # 1; Asajj Ventress from the new "Clone Wars" cartoon; and Nellie from "Little House on the Prairie."  That being said, I'd have liked to have seen much, much more of the Dark Sisters.  I hope to engage them again in the other installments of this series.
  • "Ichor" in the first sentence.
  • The Jem/Will partnership.  I can always appreciate a good light/dark juxtaposition.  It reminds me of my childhood.  I especially like this one because it reminds me of the Jim Nightshade/Will Holloway characters of Something Wicked This Way Comes.  These kinds of pairs--or parabatai, in Clareworld--become two parts of the same boy, really.  It gives the young girl reader the opportunity to safely lust after both the good guy and the bad boy at the same time.
  • Making the mythos.  I loved learning about Church's origins, and it was fun to see where the killing toys and freaky mechanics had come from.  
  • Robots. Is it too much to hope that one of the main characters will turn out to be an automaton?  Or is that too Star Trek?
  • More of the same.  When I finished reading City of Bones, I felt like I had read something important.  (See my earlier entry.)  There were layers that legitimized the story as something to be analyzed.  Clockwork Angel, though, unfortunately, didn't tap into that edginess, that significance.  It had the Downworlders, the Shadowhunters, and the Mundanes--and that was it.  Nothing new or shocking.  
  • Setting.  Most of it is inside.  I want to SEE Victorian England.  I want to smell it, fear it, move through it.  The New York of The Mortal Instruments was alive.  Clary experienced the expanse of the city, the suburbs, the Institute.  In this novel, we're stuck with Tessa in the Institute, with only a brief venture out.  I can see the argument that this mirrors the claustrophobia that Tessa may have felt in Victorian England, but I don't buy that.  She never complains about it.  In fact, she seems to like being inside all the time.  
  • Henry.  Poor, poor Henry.  He's a buffoon.  He's pathetic.  He's lame.  Whatever you want to call it, I want more.  These characters are always set up to change, yet I didn't get that really with Henry.   
  • Tessa.  I don't love her--yet.  Maybe in subsequent novels I will.  That does happen to me often.  However, I found myself drawn more to the mysteries of Jem/Will much, much more.
  • Will.  He's a little too much like Jace--egocentric, afraid to love, secretly pained.  His most redeeming quality is his care for Jem.
On her website, Clare has mentioned that The Infernal Devices can stand alone, or they can be read in zig-zag with upcoming The Mortal Instruments novels.  Herein lies the big problem: if I were a new reader and had just started with Clockwork Angel, I don't know that I'd be very interested in the sequel.  It doesn't have the heart of its companion novels--in character, setting, or plot.

I'm looking forward to meeting with Clary, Simon, and Jace next week in City of Fallen Angels.  I'm a little bummed that incest has been taken off the table, but I'm sure there'll be more juicy tension.  Let's just hope that Clare has revisited the story with as much passion as the first three.



This is a familiar story.  But is it more than another take on the formula?  Is it infinite?  Is the parapseudo formula infinite...or should I say immortal?   It's like how many Pokemon can you make before they're just derivations of themselves?  This novel raises so many questions--none of them important.

A girl from the Pacific Northwest (not Bella) meets an immortal boy (not Edward) when she moves to a new place (not Forks) into a house with a relative she hasn't spent much time with (not Charlie).  There's a woman (not Victoria) out to get the girl, who drowns herself in sweatshirts.

  • Locale.  It's exciting to read about my hood.  Laguna Beach.  Disneyland.  (No mention of Stanton or Garden Grove.  Maybe in a sequel?)  Setting the story in the OC allows for insight into some of the unique and horrifying aspects of Southern California living--something that could play up the abstract reality of a parapseudo.  The area has some of the most expensive real estate in the country parked right next to ghettos with some of the oldest gangs in California.  Unfortunately, the author doesn't work too much with the potential; still, I liked visualizing something more paranormal than the freakish OC giant boob jobs and orange-skinned cheekbones that I see every day.
  • Interesting back story.  I can't really go into it without ruining the story, so I'll only say that it's somewhat like Angel and Buffy.  If Angel and Buffy have sex, Angel turns evil again.  Remember?  It's sort of like that...in a way.  I like the concept, but there's really no reason to wait until so late in the story to tell us.  Fake suspense is bad suspense.
  • Easy to read.  Writing's not horrible, pace moves along, enough tension to make things interesting.
  • Almost sex.  There's a scene of sexual tension in a little Laguna Beach cove/cave that can safely titillate girls of all ages.  Of course there is a giant reason why they can never have sex without their universe imploding (Angle/Buffy thing), so don't expect too much if you're looking for something pseudo-dirty. 
  • Weak females...once again.  Nothing new here, so nothing new to say.
  • Weird mistakes.  They make me wonder about the author's credibility.  Example:  Sid Vicious was NOT the lead singer of the Sex Pistols as the author has written.
  • Names.  A girl named Ever?  WTF?  The dark love interest named Damen?  That's like calling him Mr. Heart.  I'm not saying that every story has to have a Mary or Beth or Lisa.  But let's keep in mind how ridiculous it is when celebrities name their children stuff like Apple or Pilot Inspektor.  One of the reasons I haven't enjoyed reading fantasy in the past is I get annoyed with the arbitrary Ys and apostrophes.  Who the hell can say Byll'forn or Fha'urel-yspe in their minds for 300+ pages?  Not me.  A character BEING intriguing is much better than a character being NAMED uniquely.
  • The ghostly sister.  What is her role?  Why does Ever depend on her so much?  Why doesn't she cause more trouble, add to the tension?  She could've added dimension to Ever's struggle with her past.  Instead, she just takes on the role of being the annoying little sister--only see-through.
  • Ever thinking she's to blame for her family's death.  I understand that dealing with grief can really wreck a person's rationality, and I acknowledge that we all try to find answers to the questions left behind when a loved one dies.  But since the author doesn't clue us in on any of the possible confusion of the deaths until almost the end, we can't really share in Ever's grief, which makes her more static than I'd like.
  • Damen.  Another guy who acts like a jerk because he's trying to protect the girl.  Another guy who makes the girl feel like shit because he has to preserve their love.  Another guy who can't help putting the girl in danger by hanging around and then rescuing her from his own selfishness.
Bottom line--not the greatest, not the worst.  I recently picked up the second in the series, but I'm in no rush to read it.  Strangely, even though the writing in The House of Night novels is atrocious, I'm (semi)anxiously awaiting their arrival from Amazon.  I'm not sure, really, what's missing from Evermore--or maybe I do, but I've written about it in other posts so many times that I've worked it out of my mind.

When will I find the perfect parapseudo?  Is it out there?  Or will I have to write it myself?


Two "Adult" Parapseudos

I've sprinkled in two novels from the Fantasy Romance section of the library as I wait for a massive Amazon.com shipment of young adult parapseudos.  In a strange way, reading these made me appreciate stuff like The House of Night series.  Odd.

First foray:  The Devil Inside, by Jenna Black

I was excited to read this story because it had a cool premise.  Humans live alongside demons.  There are legal and illegal possessions.  Humans can offer themselves as hosts for legally registered demons, and then together host and demon use their skills for stuff like firefighting.  Then there are the illegal demons.  They possess unwilling hosts, and they do nasty stuff, like engage in orgies of S & M.  The protagonist is a sexy exorcist--a legitimate contract job--and she's got the reputation of being an ass-kicking top dog.

Fun story.

And then there's the sex.  More like SeXXX.  Some would use the term "erotica."  I would describe it as "Penthouse Forum" a la goth.  Lots of thrusting and words like "pre-cum."  I suppose this is what the online ladies are talking about when they say, "This is one steamy novel!"

Second foray:  Dead Witch Walking, by Kim Harrison

Again, an okay story.  One side of Cincinnati is a regular old suburbia.  The other side of the river is where the monsters live.  Some time in the past, some sort of virus got into tomatoes and something or other started killing off people.  But not all people...or were they people?  Then the two factions of life--the humans and the everything else--found that they had to live together, or the human race would die out.  There are two law enforcement factions at war, and our protagonist is a member of the freaky one.  She's a witch.  Other freakies include vampires, pixies, faeries, and were-things (I say "were-things" because there are were-foxes and stuff).  Anyway, the protag has a hit out on her for most of the thing, so there's a lot of action.

But not a lot of sex.

At all.

Actually, there isn't even a kiss.  Not one.

It's like the opposite of the first adult parapseudo I read.  Not that there isn't some flirtation--if you want to call being hypnotized by a vampire whose tongue flicks out a couple times flirtation--but that's about all.  There is some promise of kink, but the closest it gets is a shape-shifting demon turning into a freaky talking dog creature who scratches at her underwear, trying to see if rape is her biggest fear.  Turns out it isn't--being bitten lesbionically by her sexy vamp roommate is.

As I finished Dead Witch Walking, I reminisced about the tummy-tickling teen groping of the young adult parapseudos.  I know what you get now.  It's a pretty good representation, I'd guess, of the typical young adult reader's sex life--although I don't know if I'd call a 14-year-old girl "young adult."  (Barnes & Noble may have it right, labeling the section "Teen Supernatural Romance," as that includes 13-year-olds.)  It's all about the anticipation and the almost in young adult.  There's something moving behind that zipper, but we won't ever get to really experience it unbound.  The girls feel "burning" between their legs, but never from flesh-to-flesh friction; rather, it's from an intense desire of the sensually mysterious--something that, obviously, the whole paranormal aspect of the romance genre is a metaphor for.

So, with my tail between my legs, I return to the teen stuff, looking forward to the in-between.



Thirst 1 & 2 follow the lead of The Vampire Diaries in cramming multiple novels into one package.  This is wonderful.  It's cheaper and you don't have to wait to read the next one.  These two series can both do it because they were published in the early 1990s.  Also, they're relatively short.  Can you imagine a collection of all the Twilight novels?  It'd be bigger than my plethora of Shakespeare's collected works volumes.

Thirst number one includes three novels:  The Last Vampire, Black Blood, and Red Dice.  They're the first parapseudos I've read by a male author, and they're remarkably different on a couple fronts.  I'm not yet willing to say that all male-written teen vamp novels will be the same.  I'll have to read more before I get all feministy. 

First main difference:  the romance.  It's not really there.  None of the squishy stuff like the previous novels I've read.  It's all about love.  Eternal love.  Caring love.  Undying love.  The kissing is bland, if present at all.  The sex scenes are only hinted at.  Bummer!

Second main difference:  the gory fights.  These are definitely action-packed, detailed, and frequent.  They play out well with the whole noirish feel of the plot.

  • Refreshing.  I was really tiring of the same old story.  The author combined vampire stuff with a little Lawrence Sanders-style detective/spy stuff.
  • Finally an actual Badass Female.  Sita/Alisa/Lara doesn't make daily decisions based on her whirlwind teen emotions.  Maybe that's because she's spent 5000 years as a teenager?  Her angst would've been buried with King Tut.  She does break up with God for a few guys, but it's not something she's torn about really.  She makes a decision, and then lives with it.  
  • Historical references.  I loved this aspect.  Sita is one of the original vamps, created in ancient India by a god-human hybrid.  We meet a few Indian deities, and we find out that Sita's met a host of famous people over the 50 centuries:  Socrates, Da Vinci, Stoker, etc. 
  • Quick read.  Not that I don't love to languish in a great novel, but a quick-moving plot is always best.  The author doesn't waste time summarizing past events or re-describing everything and everyone.  Always a forward, purposeful momentum.
  • Writing.  Pike's adept at imagery, metaphor, detail, dialogue.  
  • Humor.  Sita's funny.  Sometimes she means to be, and other times her ancient personality is hilarious.  I love it when she says stuff like "I can easily fly an Army helicopter. I have mastered every invention humans have ever created."
  • Love time line.  She falls in love within days.  Maybe that's okay for a 5000-year-old teen, but how is it possible for a contemporary American teenage boy?  Sita doesn't even do any vampy hypno work on him.  
  • General time line.  In a couple months, she falls in love, wipes out all Los Angeles vamps, blows up a mansion, kills about 50 LAPD and FBI agents, creates a ruckus labeled "terrorism" for its epic scale, infiltrates Area 51, and nukes the Nevada desert.
  • Absence of contractions.  Okay.  With Sita, I get it.  She's been around before English was a language.  In fact, I like it in her.  However, I don't like it in the other characters.  Why would an Oregon teen fail to contract?  What modern teen says, "I do not understand"?  Also, there could be a little more consistency.  Sita contracts in thought, but not in speech.
  • God stuff.  It's a little interesting, but I have a hard time swallowing the whole "I want to be in the grace of God" stuff.  Praying, loving a deity, talking to others about God--is this a vampire's mandate?  Apparently.
I like this series despite some of the cheesy stuff.  It doesn't massage my professor muscle like the Gemma Doyle (A great and Terrible Beauty) or Clary Fray (The Mortal Instruments) novels, but it's good, entertaining writing.  I'll definitely get the second collection.  I read somewhere that there's a new one coming out after many, many years.  Looks like Pike's cashing in on the new parapseudo craze.  Smart guy.  I wonder how Sita will change.

I can see this as a movie--and one that could appeal to several demographics, not just the curious teen girls.  If they did it right, even people like my dad--who loves "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"--would be interested. 

In fact, I brought this book to my dad.  We'll see if he reads it.


House of Night, pt. 1

I have to break up this series for a couple of reasons.

1.  There are 8 books in the series. 

2.  I've only read 5, and I really have the itch to write about it.

3.  I don't want to pay for the hardcovers, so I'm taking an intermission.

So in this section, I'll write about the first 5:  Marked, Betrayed, Chosen, Untamed, and Hunted.  The titles are kind of cheesy, and they are too easy.  I like more compelling titles.

The premise is yet another take on the vampire.  In this world, vampirism is a genetic mutation that takes hold of some teenagers.  They become "fledglings" and are sent to a vampire finishing school of sorts.  There they learn about vampire sociology, archery, and blow jobs.  Yes.  Giving head.  (Both of these terms are used frequently enough to make it strange.)  Over the course of the 4-year education a fledgling receives, he or she may die a horrible death--turning to bloody slush from the inside out.  On the other hand, he or she may spontaneously burst into a beautiful full vampire--or "vamp," as they're called in the novel.

  • The new take above is interesting.
  • Sexual stuff borders on teen-porn.  I put this as a merit because I look forward to reading about the soft moans and the flicking tongues.  I admit it. 
  • Aphrodite.  She's hilariously cunty, and out of all of the characters, she's the most dynamic.  Five novels in, and I find myself becoming afraid that she'll be killed off in subsequent installments.
  • Spiritual/religious stuff.  There's a ton of Cherokee magic, Christian craziness, Catholic reverence, and pagan ritual.  I like the idea that Nyx (goddess of vampires) is also Mary (Jesus's mom).  I'd compliment the authors on creating a fascinating convergence of spiritual systems...but that'd be going too far.  These novels aren't sophisticated enough for that.  Still, I appreciate the attempt.
  • Relatively page-turny.  I've made it through 5 with only minor revulsions.  (Sort of.)
  • Penetration.  "Making love," it's called.  Perhaps this is a phrase that preteens don't recognize?  Would "hooking up" make more sense to them?
  • Matriarchal society (superficially).  Again, I appreciate the attempt, and that's why this is in the Merits, not the Absolutely Awful.  The women are placed in positions of power--they govern, take consorts, make/change policy, receive worship.  The authors have tapped into some feminist tenets--but some of what some readers would consider "strong women" are actually more like Cristina Aguilera-style feminists to me.  They still define themselves through their relationships with men, they rely on their bodies/sexuality to manipulate situations, they depend on men for protection, and they let cattiness get in the way of real development.
  • Stereotypes that are truly offensive.  Seriously.  The authors (it's a mom-daughter team) have a thing about male homosexuality.  I bet they're the kind of people who say, "I have gay friends, and they know when I use 'fag' that I'm doing it from a place of understanding."  PUHLEEZE.  There are two male characters who squeal, decorate, pirouette, and dress fashionably.  Straight characters are described in terms of their relationship to homosexual stereotypes--and ambiguously.  A character was described as like Leo DiCaprio without the "latent homosexuality."  Huh?  The two black characters speak in what was once called Ebonics.  "I be watchin' you, white boy."  I'm not even kidding. They gyrate and say, "Mmm hmm."  Again, I kid you not.  I could write an entire entry on this...
  • Secondary characters are more interesting than the protagonist.  That's a big problem.
  • Plot summaries from novel to novel.  It's annoying to read pages of summary about what I'd just read.  I hate books that give me a reason to skip pages.  
  • Rituals.  They call it "casting a circle."  Every time they do it--and that's several times each novel--they go through the entire damn thing.  All the chants.  Over and over.  All the physical sensations that go with the chants.  Over and over.  Saying hello to the elements.  Over and over.  Saying goodbye to the elements.  Over and over.  Yet another reason to skip pages. 
  • The writing.  It's just bad.  I'm sorry to be a mean reviewer--I hate it when reviewers are jerks because they like to hear themselves write--but this is one of those situations that calls for brutal honesty.  The writing is worse than Twilight.  (Yet, like Twilight and it's brood, these novels mysteriously keep you reading.  How do these women do that?!)
  • Zoey's boyfriends.  Why does she have to constantly balance three or four at once?  They all play different roles as the novels progress--human blood donor/consort, vampy kinda-mate, older devirginizer, honor-bound protector...etc.  But she's always whining about what boy's forefront in her mind.
I don't know what it is that keeps me reading these novels.  Truly.  But I do keep reading, so there must be something going on.  I hate the bigoted bullshit, but somehow that is canceled out.  Maybe something in the plot?  Maybe Zoey's boyfriend troubles?  Maybe the implications of church evils?  I don't know.  Maybe by the end of the series I'll know.

But do these series ever end?


I'd seen this novel at Target before I actually bought it and settled in.  Initially, I didn't get it because it seemed gimmicky, which I'll describe later.  It's a woof story--a woof love story.  And I like it.

There's this underlying sweetness that unfurls early, but it's not syrupy, and (thankfully) it doesn't last.  It diminishes, like a real relationship.  The couple isn't perfect.  The story isn't, either.  That makes it interesting and different from the lip-focused, eye-obsessed goop that sludges up most of the parapseudos.

  • Penetration.  Actual doing-it.  With a condom!  We don't get to read about the hip grinds and sloshy noises (as we do in some of the "adult" parapseudos I've recently read), but it happens.  The author treats it naturally: the couple is nervous and awkward afterward, and they question their decision.  Loved it!
  • Omniscience works.  In a shorter novel, limiting omniscience to the protag is usually the safe route.  Shiver doesn't do that.  We get an equal glimpse into Grace's and Sam's minds.  It's not distracting, however, and I don't find myself asking the lame question:  Whose story is it?  The story belongs to both of them.
  • The gimmick.  This should really be a part of the previous comment, but since it's unique (kinda).  Not to give too much away, but...the woof doesn't stay woofy in the warmth.  Each chapter starts with a temperature, which adds to the tension.  As the season gets colder, will Sam be able to remain a human, or will Grace have to sleep with a dirty canine?
  • No crazy werewoof hooey.  They're more like just woofs--not John Landis human-eaters. 
  • Tension.  There's a definite sense of foreboding throughout because we're privy to a possible ending that the characters work to avoid.  I'm not gonna spoil it, but just know that my mother cried.  
  • Genuine emotion.  I buy the romance.  It's not overbearing, yet it's still appropriately titillating.  And the feeling that the romance is doomed makes it even better.  Who doesn't like to read a story where one character's dying or leaving or from an incompatible alternate universe?  
  • Girl vs. Boy sexuality.  I'm getting really frustrated with the whole Sally wants it/Johnny must keep it safe thing.  What teenage boy in "love" would sleep stiffly at the edge of the bed to avoid the touch of the obviously horny girl next to him?  It's easier to believe in werewoofs than it is to believe in male moral chastity.  Sorry.  
  • Parenting issues.  I don't like the author's characterization of Grace's parents.  They've basically abandoned her, which makes her co-habitation with Sam way too easy.  However, I'd rather have absent parents than Sam's insanely murderous, overly religious parents.  The author's characterization of Sam's parents is so much more effective; I wish she'd have gifted Grace's parents with an equally compelling quirk.
  • The Jack subplot.  Although I really, really like the bitchy sister, Isabel, I don't really care much about Jack, and I feel like he's stuck in there as a weak means for some extra conflict/complications.  
  • The easy/weird fix that leads to an easy ending.  The science seems off a little.  Then again, I'm an English prof.: what the hell do I know?  And the very end:  chop off the last scene and put it at the beginning of the next installment.  I wish authors would do this more often.
  • The white she-woof.  Not enough evil here.  She's out there peeing on the deck and scratching at the window--potentially scary stuff.  No real follow-through, though.  Bummer.  I wanted a righteous standoff!  Two bitches, some blood, and a reluctant victor.   
What struck me from the beginning is that the whole werewoof issue is really in the background.  It's not a story about a girl who falls in love with a monster.  It's about a mysterious love that has developed between two outsiders over a lifetime, and it is about a relationship that is at risk of falling prey to incompatible natures.  It doesn't dwell on the paranormal aspect as others do.  It doesn't rely on the supernatural junk to pull it through.  It's actually a pretty simple story--one that I'm looking forward to continuing when the next novel goes to paperback.