Based on Excerpts: What Should I Read Next?

23 Jul

At this year’s San Diego Comic Con, I passed by the Penguin booth and was handed four sample booklets containing excerpts of some upcoming/newly released novels. This one has five paranormal young adult, all of which features vampires except “Dreaming Awake” by Gwen Hayes, which stars an incubus hero, which is kind of like a vampire. Vampires, vampires, vampires. Why are vampires so hot right now? Answer: Money. Guaranteed New York Times Best-Seller. Possibly a TV series featuring ridiculously hot, pouty-lipped actors. Woot. Money. Might I pitch my young adult vampire novel to you? Let me know if you have a minute. The hero is half vampire, one-quarter snow leopard, and one quarter demon. The heroine is half-selkie, half-valkyrie, all gumption and Whedonesque sass. And it takes place in a high school in space. Hot stuff, I tell you. Mmmmoney.

“Almost Everything” by Tate Hallaway Anastasjia Ramses Parker is a half-witch, half-vampire whose father is the vampire King of the North (Robb Stark?!?). Her mother is a witch who teaches English at the community college. In this world, vampires and witches are arch enemies; because this is the 3rd book of the series, I have no idea how Ana’s parents got together and why they’re split up. One night stand? Anyway, in the previous book, Ana and her ex-fiance/knight protector Elias, were banished from her father’s kingdom for daring to stand up to the king and both now live with Ana’s witch mother. She and Elias seem to be doing the awkward what-are-we-to-each-other dance and I suspect this will be an ongoing theme and will be carried through the bulk of the series. Expect lots of angst and hand wringing.

While Ana and Elias are dealing with the aftermath of their banishment, they come up against a new problem looming in the horizon. Apparently, in the previous book, Ana—ignorant of vampire politics as she was raised without knowing she was half vampire—inadvertently broke a betrothal between someone from her kingdom and the princess of the south. Now that Ana is living in the south and thus in the territory of the southern vampires, she must deal with the consequences of her part in breaking the betrothal. The prince and his entourage descend upon Ana’s mom’s house and demand that Ana find a new suitor for the princess or the impending alliance between the North and South won’t happen and there will be blood. And war. Panicked, Ana offers up the only candidate she can think of: Elias.

The Heroine In the first scene, we encounter Ana sitting out in the patio wearing a raggedy tank top and shorts. She seems to be a spunky, sassy gal—she took on her father, after all—and really would like the life she once had before she found out she was a vampire princess. I don’t see quite yet if she is struggling with her vampire half—though there is apparently a scene in a previous book where she licks the blood off the forehead of an injured hockey-playing boyfriend, much to her chagrin—and I’d be interested to know what “witch” means in this world. Will she be casting spells? Anyway, just like a normal teenage girl, she seems to enjoy ruminating about what she and Elias mean to each other, since they’ve only made out a couple of times, and haven’t really been affectionate ever since they were banished from her father’s kingdom.

The Hero Not much is known about Elias except he’s a knight. Was he a knight specifically assigned to Ana? He seems to be old-fashioned and traditional, as he enjoys afternoon tea with Ana’s indulgent mother. Probably ridiculously handsome with the requisite cheekbones and piercing eyes. That’s about it.

Will I read it? Maybe. I like Ana’s snarky, jovial voice and there is good energy in the prose. I’m a little burned out on the whole will-they-or-won’t-they shenanigans, especially when the hero is a vampire, but the main character is likeable. What’s holding me back from buying the book is that I’d have to go and buy the earlier books in the series because this is very much not a stand-alone. On one hand, this is only the third book, so getting the other books won’t break the bank, but I am slightly put off that I have to read the earlier books to catch up and I’m pretty meh about doing that.

“Dreaming Awake” by Gwen Hayes [SOME MAJOR SPOILERS INCLUDED] I read the first book of this new series sometime last year so I was really excited to come across this excerpt. Gwen Hayes’ writing is so elegant and evocative. Check this out:

Danger doesn’t always greet with bared fangs. Sometimes, it seduces with a willowy caress, a sigh of pleasure, then turns carnivorous with whipcrack intensity.

Beautiful. In the last book, Theia Alderson, a British transplant with a rich, wealthy widower for a father, meets and falls in love with Haden Black, an incubus who enters her life via fire. Literally. As Theia watches from her bedroom window, Haden falls from the sky, every inch of him in flames. Haden shows up later as a student in Theia’s private school and instantly becomes hot commodity. Heh-heh-heh. Haden and Theia are instantly attracted to each other like horny, hormonal magnets, but Haden is reluctant to get involved with Theia because he is supposed to bring a “bride” back to his world whose soul he would trap in a hellish prison and he likes Theia too much to do that to her. But as these things go, these crazy kids get together and Theia is somehow trapped in hell when she sacrifices herself for Haden and shares a blood bond with Haden’s demonic mother. Ah, young love. My high school boyfriend wouldn’t even buy me a movie ticket.

At the beginning of this book, Theia has returned from hell and is trying to adjust to “normal” life. Her overly strict father reluctantly welcomes her back—she’d been missing for a spell—but seems to be colder than ever. Her only respite from her crappy home life is her dreams of Haden, who spins little fantasies for her where they dance and frolic like happy, ridiculously good-looking puppies. But Haden’s mother, the queen of the succubi, definitely wants Theia back and Theia has to deal with the consequences of having demon blood in her body. Is Theia going to turn into a creature that lusts for human souls? Is she going to eat Haden?

The Heroine Theia Alderson is the “perfect daughter, the perfect teen girl, the perfect ingenue from every gothic romance ever written. A doll in a box.” Growing up with an overly strict father and a dead mother of questionable reputation, Theia was desperate to please her dad and never really allowed herself to let loose and have fun until she meets Haden, who ultimately leads to her momentous undoing. At the start of the first book, she was a prim, proper “English rose,” careful and afraid to disappoint her father, but by the end, she had saved Haden and held up her own against the queen of the succubi, his mother. I’m interested in the development of Theia’s character and how the demon blood will affect her and would definitely love to read more.

The Hero Haden Black is more of a standard stock romance novel hero, complete with angst

a dark mystery, a demon with a human soul. He embodied all that shouldn’t be in a glorious presentation of everything that was ideal. His chiseled features would have been too harsh on a mere mortal, but gave him a unique appearance—as if he was sprung from a well of dreams

Uh-huh.

Will I read it? Duh. I’ve already read the first book and really enjoyed the author’s voice and style. I think Theia is a fun character and while Haden hails straight from CW Teen Heartthrob casting, I enjoy their chemistry together. This is just the 2nd book of the series and the author does a good job encapsulating the important events of the first book within a few pages that a newcomer can just dive right in. Still, I definitely recommend the first book. Gwen Hayes is a fabulous, fun writer and I’ll definitely be on the look-out for more of her stuff. Will for sure shell the dough for this book.

“Black Dawn” by Rachel Caine This is the umpteenth book in Caine’s Morganville Vampires series and I haven’t read any of the books since the 1st one (and that was a long while back). I think it’s about a college student named Claire Danvers who moves into a dormitory with vampires for roommates and shenanigans ensue. And no, it’s not Porky’s with vampires, though that would be awesome. Someone make that happen!

Even though I had no clue what was going on and who any of these characters were, I was immediately drawn in by how creepy it was. The city of Morganville is basically run by vampires and these folks are a “cross between old school royalty and the Mafia.” For a while now, the vampires have been at the top of the heap, but now there’s a new baddie in town and their favorite chow is vampire. My skin seriously crawled at the thought of these creatures called the Draug. They’re semi-solid, mostly slimy creatures who can hide in the water and has infected the Morganville water system. In the last book, a few of Claire’s friends and some vampire biggies were captured by the Draug and dragged under water where they were slowly consumed. Claire and her human boyfriend Shane rescue a few vampire friends and they’re now camping out in the Elders’ Council Building. One of the vampires they had rescued is Michael, who is dating a human named Eve, and Eve is currently wary and afraid of Michael because when she fed him her blood to save his life, he almost drank her dry. Another vampire Claire and Shane rescued is Oliver, a formerly hippie-seeming dude who owned a local coffee shop and is actually kind of an evil vampire who wants to take over the territory if the current queen Amelie, who was injured in the last rescue mission and infected by the Draug, dies. Now Claire and Shane have to find the cure for Amelie and save her because their lives would totally suck if Oliver took over.

The Heroine Claire seems scrappy and willing to fight. I don’t learn much about Claire because this story seems to take place immediately after the end of the last book, but she doesn’t seem the type to cower and hide because when Oliver commands her to find a missing vampire, she just goes for it and seems to know what she’s doing. But, then again, this is like, the tenth or so book in the series, so who knows how she has evolved as a character.

The Hero “You feel the need to scream like a girl, let it out, dude. No judging,” is what Shane says to a vampire who has nightmares because HE SPENT SOME TIME CHAINED UP UNDER WATER BEING FED ON ALIVE BY SLIMY, SUCKING THINGS. Seriously? Do not want. Not impressed.

Will I read it? Meh. I’d have to re-read the first book because it’s been so long since I read it, and like I said, there’s quite a few books between this one and the first book. I’m not really looking to go all the way back. It’d be too expensive. I’m intrigued by the creepiness of the Draug, but I’m not really motivated by the expense of buying, like, 10 books just to catch up. It’d probably be a fun series to pick up and start with, though, especially if you like gorier, scarier books, and a young adult series starring older-than-seventeen characters.

“Blood Fever” by Veronica Wolff Here’s yet another series featuring vampires, though this is really about “Watchers.” Does watchers mean the same as human servants or Renfield-type characters? Do they “watch” the vampire and take care of them in the day time or something? Our main protagonist Drew attends a Watcher school in the Isle of Night, which I assume is a hidden island on the Atlantic somewhere. The recruits of the Watcher School are abused kids, runaways, and delinquents who are picked up and brought to the island by vampires. Drew herself was seduced and tricked into going to the island by a sexy vampire named Ronan in a parking lot in Florida. This book is liberally peppered with terminology like “Acari” (which is what our protagonist is—I assume it means “newbie”), “Directorate,” and “Guidon” and I have no idea what any of them mean. No bueno.

In the previous book, Drew had “bonded” with an injured, derelict vampire named Carden McCloud, who is a renegade (yet another term which means nothing to me) that she finds in a cave. Their bond is forbidden, so Drew is very anxious that someone will find out and report them to the “Directorate.” Meanwhile, a “Guidon” named Trinity has been murdered and Drew is looking hella guilty because Trinity used to bully her and her dead roommate. In order to avoid prosecution and punishment by death, Drew must find out who really killed Trinity, while having to contend with her growing obsession with and near constant fantasizing about Carden McCloud. Oh, and she has a new roommate who is a violin prodigy named Mei-Ling Ho (really?) and was apparently kidnapped from her home and dragged to the island. Drew is puzzled by this because all the recruits have to come “willingly,” so she’s gotta find out about that shit, too.

The Heroine I can already tell that Drew and I won’t be getting along because she says things like, “Girls and their stupid hang-ups are beyond me.” Yeah, no.

The Hero “But before you go, for the record, I do not savage young women.” Good for you.

Will I read it? Probably not. This book is just the, what, second book (?) in the series and I’m already totally lost. The author tends to throw around terms that mean nothing to a newbie and not so easy to decipher. The new roommate is a Chinese girl named Mei-Ling Ho who is a violin prodigy and the first thing she asks for when she meets Drew is a syllabus. For real? YOU JUST GOT KIDNAPPED BY VAMPIRES AND TAKEN TO AN ISLAND WHERE YOU’LL LEARN HOW TO… I don’t even know. Watch? AND YOU’RE LOOKING FOR A SYLLABUS? SMH. I think I might stick with Richelle Mead’s awesome Vampire Academy series and skip this one.

“The Farm” by Emily McKay Finally, an excerpt from the first book in a series! Woot! Just the title alone is scary. The Farm refers to a quarantine zone where the surviving children under the age of 18 are being kept after an apocalyptic event called The Tick decimated much of the nation’s population. The Ticks are vampire monsters who sweep across towns like a swarm and consumes everyone in its path.

Our female lead is a seventeen-year-old girl named Lily whose twin sister, Mel, is autistic and can only communicate through nursery rhymes. The farm is located in what used to be a private liberal arts college and the two girls have been hiding themselves in a science building. In the farm, everything is regulated: what time they eat, how much they eat, and what they can have in their possession. Those who violate the rules are tied up outside the fences for the swarm to consume. The people inside the farm are divided into groups: 1) The Greens – Lily and her sister fall under this category, 2) The Collabs – people who work with the Ticks and provide them what they need, 3) The Breeders – girls who agree to get pregnant and give up their babies to… be eaten? Turned into slaves of the Ticks? Anyway, Lily and Mel are about to turn 18 and plan to escape before that happens. Those over the age of 18 are taken out of the farm and tied to a stake outside the fence to be eaten. It would be good to escape.

The Heroine(s) Lily has always taken care of her sister, Mel. And she’s sick of it. Often she fantasizes of killing herself and leaving Mel in the closet to dehydrate and starve—she figures it would be a better fate for Mel than getting eaten by the Ticks. She doesn’t want to be responsible for Mel anymore, but at the same time, she knows she is the only one who can really save the two of them. She’s smart and tough and an interesting character study. She’s a realist who knows she will have to make a really hard decision someday, but wonders if she will have the courage to go through with it.

Mel, on the other hand, is not as helpless as Lily seem to think she is. She hears patterns and plans and music. She hears… everything. She suspects that Lily’s plan for escape might fail, but is unable to communicate it to her twin.

Will I read it? Oh hell yeah. Lily reminds me of Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games because she’s resourceful, tough, and smart. I love reading about heroines who get shit done and don’t spend half their day mooning about the love interest. They don’t wait to be saved; they save themselves. The book is told in first-person POV, alternating between Lily and Mel; I’m interested in learning more about the way Mel’s brain works. I was also captivated by the idea of “The Ticks.” The author doesn’t describe what they look like or where they came from or how they came about, but the fact that they come in swarms and have basically ended human existence is scary enough. Sign me up for this series. I’ll definitely be plunking my dough for it. This is one vampire story I definitely want to read.

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2 Responses to “Based on Excerpts: What Should I Read Next?”

  1. Barbra July 24, 2012 at 9:44 am #

    I have just found your site Bam and I absolutely love it. Couldn’t find anywhere to contact you direct. Being anal (no not that way) I have to go through the archives and am up to August 2005 and have never laughed so much over a book site – you just rock! Keep up the fantastic good work – this is one Brit who finds you splendiferous.

  2. Bam July 24, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

    Aww, Barb, thanks. That’s really nice of you to say. Stay, relax, enjoy old posts. :)