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Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz



Just like in her young adult series, in this book, Melissa de la Cruz presents a supernatural tale aided by mythology. Her witches aren't just magical; they're goddesses who possess a history that spans worlds and time itself. Focusing upon two sisters - Freya the carefree, beautiful bartender who dispenses love potions and Ingrid the staid and straight-laced librarian whose talent rests in talismans and spells - and their mother, Joanna, who boasts powers of restoration, Witches of East End explores North Hampton, a cozy, protected bungalow of a town, and the citizens who live there... including the Beauchamp women. When the ladies start to ignore the rules visited upon them that forbid them their magic, they get pulled into a larger web of sorcery, one which recalls the most fundamental and influential aspects of their long, complicated history.

This is all well and good. In fact, de la Cruz's use of mythological lore is Witches of East End's greatest strength. Unfortunately, however, she saves it until the very end of the novel, instead focusing the majority of her first foray into adult fiction on petty, human frailties. It is not a flaw that the book's characters are both good and bad. Rather, the problem lies in the fact that their less than desirable traits are so predictable, that their personalities and characterizations themselves are trite and unimaginative. In turn, this makes Freya, Ingrid, and Joanna's actions - mistakes and triumphs alike - just as unoriginal as well. Perhaps de la Cruz was aiming to create archetypes given the witches' roots in mythology, but this only would have been possible if she had introduced the women's backgrounds sooner and relied upon them more faithfully to shape her story.

Furthermore, the novel was hampered by de la Cruz including some of her characters from her young adult series. Yes, Freya was introduced in one of the Blue Bloods books, but she was a new character at that point without a pre-established profile. Conversely, Mimi and Oliver who played roles, insignificant though they were, in Witches of East End have established histories, including their own rather complex backstory... which was only hinted at in de la Cruz's first adult piece. Obviously, the author's intention was to intrigue readers who were unfamiliar with her YA series to read it as well, but what she ended up accomplishing was anything but. Instead, not only did she bog down Witches of East End with irrelevant characters and the distraction of a sideplot that had nothing to do with this particular novel, but she also failed to do the Blue Bloods series justice, a series whose development and pacing has been much more successful.

Finally, de la Cruz committed one last grievous writing mistake with Witches of East End: she gave it a deus ex machina ending. Admittedly, these characters ARE gods and goddesses, but what makes mythology so interesting and compelling is its pervading tragedies, not its happily ever afters. And yes, sure, in the book's epilogue, de la Cruz shows how things might not be a rosy and perfect as Freya, Ingrid, and Joanna think at the conclusion of the novel, but it is apparent that this was done to introduce a sequel rather than to give the work a more sophisticated and intriguing ending. For a book which, in its conception, has so much going for it - the Hamptons setting (very in vogue right now thanks to Revenge), the combination of the supernatural with mythology, and strong female leads, its execution is extremely dissatisfying.

Two out of Five Stars

January Book Discussion - Bloody Valentine

Alright, seeing as how this is technically our first discussion, it's going to be a rather experimental post. In fact, the first few discussions might all be experimental, but, until I find a format that I like, I'm going to be trying new things. For this month, I'm going to post a series of questions based upon the book, answer them now (seeing as how January has sprinted by me already), and then open those same questions up to your responses and comments. Sound good? Alright, let's get started.

Bloody Valentine by Melissa de le Cruz

1. While not a very insightful question, did anyone else think that this was going to be a complete novel?

Usually, I'm very anal when it comes to pre-browsing the books I order, making sure they are exactly what I believe them to be before I press that 'Add to Cart' button. The only time this caution is forgotten is when I'm extremely excited about one of my favorite author's releasing a new book. This is exactly what happened with Bloody Valentine. I got so swept up in the series that, when I saw this work's December release date, I ordered it without even scrolling down its page on Amazon.

Needless to say, I was shocked with what I received. It's not so much that regret purchasing the book; I was just disappointed because it wasn't as long as I thought it was going to be. If nothing else, this situation was a reminder that I need to pay closer attention no matter how enthusiastic I may be about a particular author or their work. In hindsight, despite enjoying what I call a small collection of short stories, because of the book's abbreviated length, I probably wouldn't have made it this month's book discussion choice. Oh well. Hindsight and all that jazz, you know?



2. Through Oliver's story, de la Cruz introduced one of the characters from her new witches series - Freya. First, were you glad that the witch was able to cure Oliver's withdrawal from Schuyler and the sacred kiss, and, secondly, are you now interested in this new series?

I, for one, am glad that Oliver is free of his Schuyler obsession. Not only does this make things easier for the Schuyler and Jack relationship (and they have enough against them; they certainly did not need Schuyler's guilt over what went down between her and her best friend to add even further complications to their coupling), but I'm also intrigued by the Oliver/Mimi relationship. While I'm certainly not convinced that Kingsley is one for good, I'd be intrigued to see what would happen if Mimi developed feelings for Oliver and then the two of them managed to rescue the Venator. Oliver manages to bring out Mimi's human side, making her far more likable than any other character has so far. I'm not ready to give that up. Plus, even though I have no doubt that Schuyler loves Jack, I still think it would bother her if Oliver became good friends with Mimi, and it would irk her even more if the two of them dated/became linked through the blood. No matter what happens, I don't ever want Mimi and Schuyler to be friends. This would just be one more thing to add to their animosity. All strong heroines need rivals; these two vampires just seem naturally destined to fill that role for each other.

As for Freya, I have to admit that I wasn't that intrigued by her. However, with that said, I do enjoy de la Cruz's writing, so I will probably give the new series a whirl. This will especially prove to be true if she eventually connects the two series together. After all, the witches series is going to start out that way, connected to the Blue Bloods through Oliver. She could certainly bring the tale full circle again and reunite the supernatural entities into a single story.



3. Through Allegra's story, we learned that she was hiding from the past and ashamed of her actions? What do you think caused these feelings within the modern version of Gabrielle?

From all the hints, I think it has to go back to the child she conceived with Lucifer, the child that was supposed to have been taken care of, the child that we all know eventually came to be Bliss. Though we received some insight into Allegra, Michael (who would have pictured him as the classic nerd?), and Allegra's human husband and though an intriguing short story (I really enjoyed reading about Allegra's past), all this seemed to do was leave me with more questions. Why in the world would Gabrielle ever conceive a child with Lucifer? Was she tricked? Was she driven to desperation by other Blue Bloods? Where was Michael when this happened? Then, progressing through Allegra's story, how did she end up married to Ben when, at the end of this tale, she had essentially reaffirmed her devotion to Michael and swore to prevent the future she witnessed from occurring? I don't know about anyone else, but I would take a full length novel devoted to this particular aspect of the Blue Bloods history.



4. Finally, we come to Schuyler's story. Did you enjoy her bonding ceremony to Jack and everything that led up to it?

I have been very vocal about my support for this pairing, but, with that said, I was slightly disappointed in this aspect of the novella - not the bonding itself, per-say, but I thought the tension leading up to it fell a bit flat. I was pleased to see Jack and Schuyler's obvious trust in each other. I like that the ring used against (and then for them) was special to Abbadon's history, and, because of their ages, I could appreciate the fact that they had never sexually consummated their relationship until they took this step together, but the actual fight against the Venators seemed anticlimatic, perhaps because it lacked emotional conflict between the two sides. I prefer the personal fights, when two people who history and personal animosity go up against each other over impersonal fights - men sent to kill because that's their job and not because they actually care one way or another, personally - other than their own survival, who will prove victorious after a battle. However, with that said, Jack and Schuyler are on a collision course to eventually face Mimi. I'm sure that will be plenty personal for me, and I can't wait.



5. What did you think of the fact that de la Cruz included illustrations?

Personally, I am not a fan of this. If you want to include illustrations, then create graphic novel versions of your books; do not the confuse the two. When reading, I do not require pictures in order to imagine what something looks like, and, frankly, even if I did, I would have found the ones included in this book extremely lacking. Honestly, this surprised me, because I've always found the cover art for her novels to be rich and beautiful. Speaking of a Blue Bloods graphic novel, though, there's one coming in October of this year. Let's hope its pictures are more like those of the books' cover art and not like the illustrations included in this novella.

Two New Book Responses

Keys to the Repository

Technically, this is not a novel. Rather, this is a guide for the Blue Bloods Series by Melissa de la Cruz. In it, there are character biographies, a glossary of terms, and other useful information to keep the plotlines and characters in the series straight. Plus, there are a few short stories as well that are missing chapters or further insights into characters.

Unlike some readers, I went into this book knowing full well exactly what it was, so I wasn't disappointed. However, like some readers, if I had purchased it, thinking that it would be the next novel in the series, I would have been disappointed. Basically, this book is for someone who is an avid Blue Bloods fan, someone who wants to own the complete collection. Even with that said, though - and this is coming from an obsessive bibliophile, I wouldn't pay full price for the guidebook. Rather, I would wait until it was on sale (like I did) and buy it that way. Realistically, there just isn't enough substance in the publication to warrant spending full price.

A head's up, though, for all the Schuyler/Jack fans: there are couple short stories which are a must read for this couple - one, Schuyler and Jack's first meeting at their secret apartment and, two, their final meeting at their secret apartment when Schuyler leaves him.





The Likeness

This is the second book by Tana French. Her first - Into the Woods, I also read. However, leaving that aside, let's focus on this work. It's a murder mystery but told in a very unconventional manner. This will soon become apparent once I delve into a brief summary of the book. Before that, though, just know that this is richly written novel. The characters are intricately formed, the plotline is complex, and I can honestly say that I have never read another mystery quite like it. Needless to say, I enjoyed this book tremendously. It was one that was meant to be savored, read slowly so that every nuance could be appreciated, one that, when the last page was turned, I wanted more, despite the fact that I was satisfied with the conclusion and felt as though the storyline had technically been completed. Anyway....

In this work, French presents a cop who at one point worked in both Undercovers and Murder but had since transferred into Domestic Violence due to a less than savory case which was still haunting her. While in Undercovers, she and her superior created an identity, one that she assumed for months until she was stabbed and had to be pulled out of the investigation. Years later, Cassie has practically forgotten that girl, but she is quickly reminded of her own past when a dead body is found, one that is a near dead ringer for her. The case becomes even more insanely haunting when the cops discover that the corpse used Cassie's old Undercover identity. So, in order to solve the case, Cassie must re-assume her previous role, only this time she's not creating Lexie Madison; she's reforming her to reflect someone else's interpretation of the woman.

To do this, Cassie - as Lexie - goes to live with four other English doctorate students. They are an odd bunch, extremely intelligent and private, yet, at the same time, their company is something that Cassie finds herself blossoming under, something that she finds herself responding to and appreciating. She becomes emotionally involved with her suspects, which only then causes further complications in her real life, both with her career and with her own relationships, particularly that which she shares with her boyfriend, the lead investigator on the case, Sam. It turns out that the role of Lexie Madison was not the first assumed identity by the victim, so this just sends the investigation spiraling further out of control. Through lies, deception, and misdirection, Cassie - as Lexie - slowly unravels the truth, only to mar her own life up to the point where she becomes unsure if she'll be able to return to the person she was before she joined the case.

In between all this intrigue and intense characterization, there is also the lush experience of getting to immerse one's self into an entirely different culture. Because the novel takes place in Ireland, the storyline is relatable, but, at the same time, it also feels like you're on an actual journey. When reading, you leave your own setting behind and visit Dublin (and its surrounding area), something that only, in my opinion, the best books can afford their readers. Bottom Line: if you like mysteries, if you like good novels, if you prefer character driven storylines versus plot driven storylines, READ THE LIKENESS. I don't think I can be any more emphatic, so, hopefully, you'll take my advice.

Two for the Price of One

Body Surfing

Imagine being a twenty-nine year old woman, one divorced and then once widowed. It's not a very common occurrence, but it is the main character of this book - Sydney's reality. This is the stage of her life in which she finds herself when she goes to work for the Edwards family. Ostensibly to tutor their teenage daughter, Julie, so that she can pass and do well on her upcoming SAT's, Sydney goes to stay with the Edwards at their beach house in New Hampshire. There, she body surfs, meets the Edwards' two sons Ben and Jeff, and begins to live again. As she opens Julie's eyes to her future, to love, Sydney once more opens her own heart and falls in love with Jeff. But then, on the night of her wedding, she learns an hideous truth, sending her life into yet another downward spiral.

The interesting thing about this book is, just as Sydney is lied to, so are we as readers. I was none the wiser towards the truth than she was, and, though, in the back of mind, I suspected that something might be wrong, I never thought it was what was eventually revealed. It was heartbreaking and devastating, though my pain, of course, was minor compared to what the character experienced.

At the same time, Julie runs away from home, the Edwards brothers get into a fight and never find their way out of it, Sydney forms a close relationship with her future father-in-law, and Mrs. Edwards never once thaws towards her employee/future daughter-in-law. While Sydney is undoubtedly the main character, as a whole, this book is a family drama, exploring all the various relationships one finds present in a nuclear family, making it extremely relatable. Also, due to the fact that it is written in the present tense, there is a sense of 'now' to the story, of the audience, as readers, being present. Though somewhat unconventional, it makes the story stand out.

My only complaint about Body Surfing has to deal with the ending. The characters were extremely compelling - all rich and real, and the plot was character driven, my favorite. However, with this praise being said, the ending was abrupt. Though poignant and a fitting close, I also felt as though the story was left unfinished, but perhaps that was the point. Because this book was more of a character study, maybe it was just a brief glimpse into these people's lives and, once it was over, we were to realize that they would continue... even if the novel didn't. Whether this was the case or not, though, I wouldn't have complained if the author - Anita Shreve - would have offered her readers just a little bit more to wrap the tale up.




Misguided Angel

In this fifth book of the Blue Bloods Series, we still see the text divided between three female, lead characters, but, this time, each woman has her own section, something I much preferred. This way, the book felt more cohesive. Though, in a way, it could be argued that the set-up resembled that of three mini-novels in one, there was still the obvious ties that bound the three storylines together; de la Cruz merely set it up so that the reader could finish one thought, one character's point of view before switching gears and moving on to another character's.

The first section followed Schuyler and Jack as they realized their saving grace - the protection of the European Coven - was actually more like a prison. As they tried to escape, they met a priest who promised to take them to the fourth gate and discovered a whole, new enemy - Lucifer's half demon/half human children. Meanwhile, in New York, Mimi is still fit to be tied that Jack left her, blowing off their bonding, and mourning the loss of Kingsley. However, she's also been named Regent of the New York Coven... just as a new threat emerges towards the vampires. Someone is kidnapping vampire teens and threatening to burn them alive over the internet for all the world to see in an attempt to expose the vampire conspiracy. To help her fight off this threat and to protect her threatened position as Regent, Mimi turns to Oliver, of all people, and Deming Chen, a young yet extremely respected Venator. Between the three of them, they must uncover a conspiracy that, in the end, leads back to the demon children Schuyler and Jack discovered in Italy.

Like always, I enjoyed Schuyler and Jack's relationship, found the mystery encircling the vampire's intriguing, and found the book to be fast paced and exciting. However, unlike with past novels in the Blue Blood Series, I didn't entirely hate Mimi in Misguided Angel. Her usually smug, annoying personality was tempered by Oliver calling her on her crap... and Mimi actually respecting and liking him because of it, by her new ability to put others before herself, and by her lack of attention to the superficial. Finally, she's truly becoming the rival that Schuyler (and, by extension, Jack) deserve.

As for the new female, lead character (we'd briefly heard of her before at the 400 Ball), she was alright. I didn't love her; I didn't hate her, but, at the same time, I see promise. We just need to learn more about her, and I'm curious to see what happens between her and her sister and the Lennox twins - both sets of twins star born and, hence, not automatically bound to another angel/vampire. However, with that said, I'm also curious about what Bliss is up to. We heard nothing about her in this book, and I'd also like an update on Allegra and Michael (especially Allegra). Perhaps we'll hear from one or all of them in book six - Bloody Valentine. It comes out tomorrow if you haven't pre-ordered your copy yet! (And don't forget it'll be our January discussion book.)

Let's Make it a Four-peat

The Van Alen Legacy

At the start of this novel, the fourth in the Blue Bloods Series by Melissa de la Cruz, Schuyler is on the run with her best friend/conduit/familiar/somewhat boyfriend, Mimi is working with a venator team which includes Kingsley Martin, the vampire which had a large part in causing her to nearly lose her life, and Bliss is alone nearly all the time with her 'visitor' - her father, Lucifer, trying to break free of his control and regain her life. In fact, during the first portion of this book, there were basically three distinct, separate storylines taking place. While I was interested in all three of them to varying degrees, the clear-cut, strict division made the beginning of this book somewhat disjointed. You would just reach a really exciting moment in one of the girls' storyline, but then the chapter would end, and you'd have to switch gears and characters and remember what was happening the last time you saw the girl you were now reading about. With that said, though, my favorite part of this novel took place during this separation of the plot. That scene between a broken up Schuyler and Jack in the tunnels beneath Paris... whoa! I liked it. A lot. So what if I'm a sucker for grand, sweeping reunions that in the end solve nothing but, while they occur, sure are unbelievably titillating?

Eventually, though - back to the plot, all the girls go home to New York - Schuyler, at that point, from Sydney, Mimi from Rio, and Bliss from the Hamptons. However, Schuyler's life, unlike with her other female counterparts, doesn't return to normal. She's still a fugitive, so she hides in plain sight in the city, while Oliver returns to the conclave's folds and pretends that the two of them have gone their separate ways. Meanwhile, Bliss is still fighting against her visitor, trying to wrestle control away from him and keep everyone she loves safe, and Mimi has gone back to her pampered princess self, re-planning her bonding ceremony with Jack who thinks that Schuyler has ended things between them once and for all. Plus, Bliss is also seeing visions of Dylan (because his essence is trapped in her mind), Mimi's sleeping with Kingsley, and Michael's missing.

Oh, and then Allegra finally wakes up, too.

Needless to say, there's a lot going on in book four, and it comes to a head at Mimi and Jack's bonding ceremony. All hell breaks lose when the silver bloods attack. By the time the battle is over, someone's dead, someone's heart broken, someone drinks another vampire's blood in order to survive, and someone else sacrifices their own life only to be reincarnated in a different form. It's chaos, and it's wonderful, and it's devastating all at the same time. In essence, The Van Alen Legacy completely alters the series' game plan, shifting it into a new and what I would say to be a better direction.

By the way, yes, I still hate Mimi. Whether she's changing or not, whether she's given up on her bond with Jack or not, that character just rubs me the wrong way. Oh, she's definitely essential the storyline, and she can be interesting, but she's still completely unsympathetic in my opinion. Just when I start to commiserate with her, she says or does something so insanely selfish, egotistical, or heartless, and I'm back to hating her all over again. But that's me. What say you?

Book five will be coming up soon, but, before I read it (I'm waiting for it to come in the mail), I'm going to take a short break from the Blue Bloods Series and read something else, something non-supernatural in nature. See you all soon!

More Blue Bloods

Revelations

Yesterday, curious, I visited Melissa de la Cruz's website. I wanted to know when her next Blue Bloods novel would be published (December 28th - Bloody Valentine for those who are curious), I wanted to know if there were any plans to turn the books into some sort of production, either movie or television, and I wanted to see if how many books she had planned for the series (unknown at this point). In my browsing, I discovered that Cruz has outlined the novels so that, with every three books, there is a major payoff. Well, Revelations is the third in the series. Fitting with this payoff rule, it contained an immense amount of information, its title well-deserved.

As threatened, Charles saw his adoption of Schuyler through, and she was taken from her grandfather and made to live with the Forces. Though life in their home wasn't a happy experience for her, it did bring her ever closer to the man she loved: Jack. They started to meet in secret behind everyone's back, and he promised her that, despite the fact that his bonding with Mimi was growing ever closer, he was determined to find a way to be with her instead. Meanwhile, Dylan, who has returned, is just as disturbed as before, and Bliss struggles with both her feelings for him and what to do to help him. Eventually, she turns to her father for help, but Forsyth is keeping many secrets. Is he even the right person to turn to?

Things spin out of control when Lawrence, in Brazil to handle a threat, fails to get into with Schuyler. She is worried about him, and this only escalates when she learns that the Conclave is following him to Rio. Deciding to go there herself, she, in turn, is followed by Oliver who has just given her an ultimatum: him or Jack. On top of all of this, Michael's sword is missing, Bliss believes that she is also Allegra's daughter and is having strange visions, and, through Conclave documents, it is revealed that Bliss' sister Jordan is not what she appears to be. It all culminates with two fights to the death - both Schuyler and Mimi experiencing their first taste of battle. Traitors are revealed, secrets are exposed, and even more secrets are kept hidden.

Once more, I enjoyed Cruz's work. Revelations had everything that its title promised. And I still hate Mimi. Then, there is also the love triangle... or would that more accurately be a love square... that was firmly set up in this third installation. Jack and Mimi are twins who are meant to be bonded, but Jack loves Schuyler. Schuyler loves Jack, but she made her conduit her familiar, and Oliver loves her. While she loves him, too, its in a best friend sense and not in a romantic one... or is it? Without revealing HOW these entanglements play out, I have to address my feelings towards them. First of all, I have never been a fan of pre-determined, written in stone relationships. I think it's always more fascinating when lovers flaunt what is supposed to be and follow their hearts. With that in mind (and recalling my intense dislike for Mimi), it should come as no shock that I want Schuyler with Jack. Add to this the fact that I also believe that friendship and romantic love should never mix when one party does not feel the same as the other, and this leaves Oliver out in the cold, too. Maybe I'm wrong to think this way. Maybe I should prefer the safe, calm, beautiful love that Ollie could offer his vampire best friend, but I don't. I, like Schuyler, prefer the dark, the damaged, the doomed. Tragedy is beautiful. Heartache is exquisite. And pining is passion. With this in mind, is it any wonder that I want Jack and Schuyler together?

But that's me. How do other readers feel about this complicated romantic entanglement? Who do you want to be together? I'd love to hear some other opinions, so drop me a line, please. :-) Be back soon with book four!

The Blue Blood Bounty Continues

Masquerade

As promised, I'm back with remarks about the second novel in Melissa de la Cruz's Blue Bloods Series - Masquerade. It picks up soon after where the previous book ended with Schuyler and her human conduit and best friend, Oliver, in Venice, seeking out her reclusive grandfather. She feels as though, if she's going to fight back and win against the Silver Bloods, she's going to need her grandfather - Lawrence Van Alen's - guidance and knowledge. Formerly influential and still extremely intellectual... or so she has been led to believe by her recently cycled grandmother, Lawrence has left the tight-knit circle of the Blue Bloods, banished and ostracized. However, a lack of society's favor has never intimidated Schuyler before.

She finds her grandfather, using her vampire skills and talents, only to be told that he will not accompany her back to New York. So, disillusioned and lost for how else will she be able to fight back against those who seek her demise, she returns, with Ollie, alone. Luckily, the deaths have stopped, but that does not mean that the danger has passed. Tied up intricately with the drama and pageantry of the Blue Blood's annual 400 Ball - the height of their exclusive New York society season, Bliss starts to believe that Dylan's still alive; a new, powerful, cocky vampire arrives to threaten Jack's position; Schuyler discovers that her body needs for her to take a human familiar sooner than expected unless she wants to end up in a coma like her mother; and Mimi is determined to bond - yes, bond - with her brother. And that's all before Lawrence, without notice, changes his mind and returns to New York.

Immediately, upon his homecoming, things start to change for Schuyler. First off, her grandfather reveals that, though nowhere near as wealthy as they once were, they're not nearly as destitute as Cordelia had led her granddaughter to believe. He also begins training Schuyler to use and understand her vampire skills so that she is prepared when next she is forced to fight a Silver Blood. Plus, more is revealed about the Van Alen's history, history that is important not only for Schuyler but also Charles Van Alen Force, Mimi and Jack Force, and Bliss Llewellyn. Needless to say, these five immortals are more intricately tied together than some of them previously believed. Add to this Schuyler and Jack's continuing and growing feelings for each other, several other romantic entanglements, the deadly reappearance of the Silver Bloods, and a traitor in their midst, and Masquerade just might be even more tense, suspenseful, and intriguing than its predecessor.

Once more, though, the only drawback is the character of Mimi. Though I have nothing against villains - in fact, I know just how necessary they are, for me, two books into this series, she still does not have a redeeming quality; she still does not have any rooting value whatsoever. And, yes, I realize she is Schuyler's opposite, her rival, her arch-nemesis, but, to make the interaction between them more interesting, I personally think it would be better if one wasn't so clearly the heroine and the other the unlikeable bitch. But that's me. What do you think? Have you read the books? I'd love to hear some comparison opinions.

And until next time... when I'm back with book three, adieu, everyone!

Three New Book Responses

Dark Lover

Though not traditionally considered a young adult novel, considering the fact that Dark Love: A Novel of the Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward is the first book in a supernatural series featuring vampires, (and it's good!), it is a work that I know many young adult readers would appreciate. In this series, vampires are not turned; they are bred. And they are not invincible... though it's not the traditional foibles such as crosses, holy water, and wooden stakes which pose a danger to them. Rather, the vampires are hunted by a society of soulless, former humans called Lessers. To defend the race, there is the Black Dagger Brotherhood, an exclusive group of strong vampire warriors, one of which is their reclusive, reluctant king, Wrath.

Then there's Beth - a beautiful, young, family-less reporter... who just so happens to be the daughter of one of the brothers, but she doesn't know of her vampire father and is about to enter her transition - where she'll change from human to vampire. Hell, she doesn't even know that vampires exist. Though her father goes to Wrath and asks him to help her through this process, the leader turns his friend down, only to change his mind after Darrius is murdered by a Lesser. Changing his mind, he goes to her, only to be immediately drawn to her. Now, this might become cliche at this point, but Ward keeps things fresh and interesting by making it so that Wrath is nearly blind. While Beth might be gorgeous, he can't see her. Oh, he knows that she's beautiful, simply by the way that other men react towards her and by touching her, but his initial attraction is chemical, instinctual.

There's love and sex, violence and intrigue, but this is not a book for the weak of stomach or maturity. With an attempted rape scene, numerous fight sequences, chokings, supernatural transformations, shotguns, throwing star, wicked knives, and so many other dangerous situations and weapons, there's quite a bit of bite with these vampires. So, if you prefer your supernatural creatures harmless kittens, this book is not for you, but, if you like blood and gore, Dark Lover will entertain you.



Love the One You're With

Changing paces, Love the One You're With delves into the life of a recently, happily married career woman who accidentally runs into an past love and almost instantaneously starts to question the decisions she has made in life. Though she doesn't doubt the fact that she loves her husband, she starts to ask those dangerous 'what if' questions. At first, she merely keeps a harmless run-in and then a more than harmless but less than harmful spur of the moment coffee date from her husband, but this quickly escalates into a secret work assignment, lustful thoughts, and a very meaningful cross-country flight between the former couple. Things only go from bad to worse when she agrees to move away from New York City to her husband's hometown of Atlanta, leaving behind not only her life in the Big Apple but also the ex she's starting to wonder if she was meant to be with all along.

Told from the perspective of Ellen, Love the One You're With is lighter on the plot and heavier on the character analysis. It delves deeply into the main character's frame of mind, her thoughts, her feelings as she explores the ups and downs of a marriage's first year, temptation, and confronting an unsettled past. This wasn't the first novel by Emily Giffin that I've read ((previously, I've read Something Borrowed and liked it quite well), but I found myself rather annoyed with the main character in this story. Though I'm not someone who would ever claim that cheating is something that is as black and white as it is often portrayed, I felt as though Ellen's dilemma in this book was clear cut and straight forward. Without a doubt, I wanted her with her husband. For me, there was nothing likable about her ex, which meant that I wasn't torn at all about who she was supposed to be with. However, because Ellen was torn, I found myself annoyed with her at times, even somewhat disliking her, a character who, otherwise, was quite likable.

Bottom line, though? Did I like this book... overall? Yes. Would I recommend it to others? Yes. However, with that said, I think it could have been better.




Blue Bloods

Recommended to me by some of my AP Senior English students, Blue Bloods is the first novel in the Blue Bloods series by Melissa de la Cruz. Once more, this is a supernatural work which focuses upon vampires. (If you haven't noticed yet, I like both of these types of books.) Also, like with Dark Lover, vampires are not turned in this series but, rather, a select set of 400 individuals whose essences are, after a cycle, passed on over and over again so they live multiple lives but their souls are immortal. At least, they're supposed to be immortal. The problem is that there is something attacking and killing the seemingly indestructible vampires.

Literally blue bloods - the most wealthy, most prestigious, and most famous of New York society, those who are fanged in this book are also fabulous... mostly. There is one vampire - Schuyler, one of the main characters and narrators - whose family, through a series of unfortunate events and had investments, have lost their fortune. But this isn't the only reason why she is different than all the other new transitioning teens being inducted into their elite group; she's also a half breed, the product of a pure vampire's union with a human. Perhaps it is because of her differences, though, which make her less likely to do what she's told, to swallow blindly the lies that she is fed, so, when she is told by the most popular boy at school, another blue blood, that a friend of his who died was really murdered and when she finds herself, someone who is supposedly immortal, attacked and nearly murdered as well, she starts to investigate, no matter what anyone says to try to distract and change her mind.

Tossed into the mystery is also the intrigue of high society - private schools, fancy parties, and designer clothes - and the pettiness of high school. There are cliches and jealousies, rivals and first loves. There is also the characters' past lives which linger at the periphery and give slight clues into who these vampire are now and what is to happen to them in the future. Though there is death, there's also almost always the constant hope of new life... or is there? There's pure evil out there, stalking and preying upon those who are supposed to be invincible, and, quite rapidly, Schuyler finds her interest in uncovering the mystery... which has led to a conspiracy and cover-up just one more thing that alienates her from everyone else. Will she unravel the lies and deception surrounding her in time, or will she die trying to?

Blue Bloods is a fun, entertaining, yet still intriguing read, one that I would definitely recommend. My one complaint, though: Mimi Force. Schuyler's rival is the ultimate debutant, Schuyler's complete opposite. The only problem is that, while Schuyler is a flawed yet likable character, Mimi is not. She's just downright unpleasant and doesn't have a single, redeeming quality, making their conflict too one-sided. Still, though, even with this in mind, I've just started book two (so far there are four) of the series, and I'll be back soon a response for it. Keep your eyes peeled.

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