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March Book Discussion - Virals

P&P - Elizabeth - standing in breeze on
 

Up until this point, Kathy Reichs wrote only contemporary fiction – murder mysteries with a forensic anthropology twist; Virals was her first foray into young adult literature. I found Reich's work through the television show Bones and have been a fan of her Temperance Brennan novels for years. At first, I was hesitant to delve into her new series. I enjoyed her previous one, and I had the attitude of why mess with a good thing? Plus, the book was meant for teenagers. Then I entered graduate school, and I took the course which inspired this blog. No longer operating under my once false impressions of YA Lit, I was curious to see what Reichs would do with a younger heroine. Tory Brennan did not disappoint. Following the previous setup, I'll explore Virals below by answering a series of questions. Please, as always, feel free to join in. Answer all the discussion questions; answer only one. Another option is simply to respond to my own comments. Whatever tickles your fancy. The point is that I would love to hear from you, too.

Virals by Kathy Reichs

1. So, Temperance Brennan has a niece. If you've read Reich's other series, did you believe this revelation? Did you accept Tory's introduction?

Yes and no. While it wasn't difficult for me to accept the fact that Temperance's nephew, Kit, had a daughter who had resulted from a tryst many years prior, especially in light of his mother's... whimsical nature, Tempe is such a cerebral character. It was more difficult to accept the fact that she had not mentioned a sudden niece in any of her previous tales. However, I could allow this to slide, because perhaps the timeline doesn't meet up. Maybe Kit didn't learn of Tory until after the close of Reich's last Temperance Brennan novel. With that said, in order for Tory's validity as a character to be established, we need to hear about her connection to Tempe from Tempe herself; Tory's word just isn't good enough. So, the next Temperance Brennan book better at least mention the latest addition to the forensic anthropologist's family. Also, as a side note to this question, I did not like the fact that Tory's last name is also Brennan. It was just too far-fetched, too coincidental. As Tory said herself in the book more than once, coincidences just do not exist. It was almost like Reichs was trying to present Tory as a younger, formally uneducated version of Temperance but in a modern day and age rather than regressing in time to tell Tempe's backstory. But then there's also the whole
viral aspect of the book, but more on that later.




2. What about the other members of Tory's pack – Ben, Hiram, and Shelton; did you enjoy their characterizations?

 

I'm not sure if it is the world that they're interested in – science, but both Temperance Brennan and her niece, Tory, seem to be more comfortable around men, more comfortable with having male friends. This is just another thing the two women have in common, and it was showcased in Tory's selection of friends. Granted, she was limited because of how narrow and small her community on Morris Island was, but she left the Island. She went into Charleston, attended a school with kids not a part of her small community. Yet again, though, because she was a part of that community, most of the other kids at her school ostracized her, so, in a way, she was still limited in her selection of buddies.

But, really, that's immaterial. The point is this: do I like Ben, Hi and Shelton, and the answer is yes. While their characterizations were somewhat contrived – one Jewish kid, a computer whiz, and the muscle, they were still entertaining characters. I especially liked the comradeship and humor that existed between the four friends. The art of sarcasm was not lost upon this pack, something that I was thankful for. In addition, if I'm reading the writing on the wall correctly, there is room for some angst... of the romantic variety... further on down the road between this close-knit group of friends which should prove to shake them up quite a bit. But more on this a little later.




3. Everything that happened in this story started with Tory's fascination with dogs, particularly the wolf, her mate, and their two wolfdogs which lived on Loggerhead Island – the Island where Tory and the other kids' fathers worked. Was this believable for you?

Yes, it was, mainly because – and I'm going back and comparing Tory with her aunt again here – Tempe is an animal lover, too. Plus, and this is a total stereotype, but, as someone who loves science and wants to be a scientist, I expected this fascination with animals from Tory. Given her aunt's personality and her own, the fact that Tory was so obsessed with the wild wolf and her pack on Loggerhead Island was perfectly natural. Furthermore, the progression of the mystery also worked for me. Puppy went missing, a puppy that Tory was especially attached to given the fact that she saved it. Puppy was discovered in a secret lab
after the kids also found a dog tag they wanted to identify, their motivations still completely innocent at this point. Puppy gets them sick, unintentionally, of course. And then everything snowballed from there. Because the character motivation was there for Tory's interest in Cooper, the fact that the mystery snowballed out and away from him worked.




4. Speaking of the mystery, what about the book's villains? Were they believable?

And this is where the novel, in my opinion, was its weakest. Oftentimes, the villains felt extremely contrived. First, there was Karsten. He was an old curmudgeon of a man – the cold, heartless scientist experimenting on animals and believing himself to be above the kids intellectually. Although he was revealed to be corrupt... somewhat, he also wasn't completely evil, just misunderstood.

Next, there were the kids at school – the rich and beautiful snobs who did not like Tory and her friends because they weren't wealthy as well. Associated with them was the typical prep school behavior and archetypes – designer clothes, fancy cars, lacrosse, and that one cute boy who looks past the unwritten but clearly understood social rules to like the girl who is real, who is different, who is the relatable heroine. However, she doesn't like him, because she only has eyes for the school's Golden Boy who, in this case, turned out to be a villain... along with his equally golden girlfriend.

Although I applaud the fact that Tory's immature crush (because, let's face it – she knew nothing about Chance but liked him anyway, so, hence, the immaturity aspect) was proven to be not so Golden in
her eyes, perhaps making her appreciate more those standing right before her and causing her to question what she's attracted to, I didn't like the fact that the two characters who most represented this stereotypical class of teenagers turned out to be two of the novel's villains. It just seemed too predictable, along with the fact that Chance, the kid who spoke out against his privileged, senator of a father, was really willing to do just about anything to protect Daddy and his own privileged lifestyle. And making the senator the man behind the initial murder which started this whole crazy sequence of events in the first place also rang a little too trite for my taste. I also wondered if somewhere there was a little bit of a personal agenda being played out in the delineation of good and bad in this story, if Reichs was using her characters to make a personal point, to express her own opinions on society, politics, and social classes.




5. So, there's been mystery, but nothing goes better with a little mystery than a little romance. Anything developing on that front?

While Tory might not be able to see it, I thought it was pretty obvious that Ben had feelings for her. Perhaps he's not even aware of them yet himself, but they're there. He's the quietest of the bunch, the definite alpha male, and she's the only female in their group. It would make sense that they would eventually gravitate towards each other. Plus, he was also extremely territorial around her when she interacted with any of the other Bolton Prep
male students. Although Ben didn't seem to be threatened by either Shelton or Hi – he had, in a way, already asserted his dominance over them, and I think it was made quite clear that there could never be anything romantic between Tory and either of the other two boys, the same cannot be said about Jason, the one boy at Bolton who befriended her, who stuck up for her despite what his other friends said and did. Ben was decidedly chilly around Jason.

At this point, Tory claims that there is absolutely no attraction on her part towards Jason. However, she also had a crush on Chance who turned out to be working against her, who held a gun on her and her friends, and whose girlfriend seriously would have killed her and the rest of the pack if they wouldn't have been able to best her. I would think that would make a girl question her initial judgment when it came to attraction. Plus, it's obvious that Jason is attracted to her. In fact, he might even have feelings for her. If nothing else, they're friends... in a way that's different than how she is friends with Ben and the other members of their pack. Because Tory will continue to see Jason at school and at the various Deb events Kit's girlfriend is determined to send her to, he's not going to suddenly disappear from her life.

In my book, between these two males, I think eventually it'll be time to cue the triangle. And I think it'll be an interesting one. While Tory is obviously connected to Ben through their mutual
otherness, what if she wanted something for herself that was separate from the pack? Then again, the fact that they're so closely knit together could, on her part, develop into a brotherly-sisterly relationship, putting a crimp in Ben's romantic feelings, and leaving her open for Jason. Now, this is all conjecture on my part, but, as I've said, I like a little romance with my mystery, so I'll be looking forward to see how this all plays out if Reichs decides to turn Virals into a series.




6. So, this otherness, what exactly is it? Do you like it? Would you have preferred the story be more of a traditional mystery without the somewhat supernatural element tossed in for flavor as well?

I like the supernatural. I find it compelling when such an element is added to a story, not only because the unknown can be intriguing but also because the supernatural can be so representative of other human conditions or situations, especially since Tory and her friends were already outsiders; this – the virus and the side effects – just made them more so. In addition, because YA novels tend to exist somewhat in a vacuum, at least where adults are concerned, their new powers help tell the story, because, as kids with limited resources, it wouldn't be plausible for them to miraculously be able to solve a murder case that had been cold for more than 40 years whereas professional law enforcement officers could not.

As for how they got those powers in the first place, unlike Tempe, Tory, and her father, I am not a scientist. I know the basics of DNA but not the details, certainly not enough to determine whether or not it would be possible for human DNA to meld with wolf DNA. Over thousands of years, we've evolved, but could such a change actually occur within a week's time? I find it highly unlikely, but, still, at the same time, it is somewhat connected to science, not mystical like the creation of most other supernatural entities. This helps. And if
Virals was a stand alone series without any connection to the Temperance Brennan novels, then I would be perfectly alright with this.

However, it's not. Because Reichs connected
Virals to her long-standing, very much rooted in fact, very scientific and exact Temperance Brennan novels, I'm struggling with the separation here. First, when they see each other, I find it hard to believe that Tempe would not notice something is different about her great-niece. Secondly, because these two worlds are connected and do not exist separate of each other, they need to be molded from the same reality. That means, if the science is possible for Tory and her gang to become part human/part wolf hybrids in Virals, then that same science needs to exist in the Temperance Brennan books and, so far, it doesn't. Even if it did, if the science is not feasible, then it would eradicate any credibility Tempe and the Temperance Brennan novels possess. Frankly, I find this aspect of the book... or should I say books?... messy.

I don't like messy.




7. Final conclusions? Impressions? Would you like to see another Tory Brennan book; would you like to see Virals turned into a series?

Despite my above complaints – both about the villains and about the impracticality of Tory and her friends'... condition, I
would like to see more of these characters. While Virals wasn't perfect, it was still quite enjoyable, and I have faith in Reichs to tell a good story. Eventually, I'd like to see her smooth away the wrinkles that exist between the two series (if, in fact, Virals becomes a series), but, even if they are not, I'd still be able to read both and be satisfied with the tales I'm given.

Just one thing, though: do criminals
not wear gloves anymore? Not only were Tory and her friends able to lift a professional criminal's fingerprint, but they left a whole trail of them behind on their own well-intentioned crime spree. Think how quickly and easily they would have been caught if someone would have thought to check for their prints in any of the places they broke into. They were so smart otherwise and took so many precautions, it just seems like this oversight was a lack of common sense on their part, something that I want to see corrected before I spend time with Tory, Ben, Hi, and Shelton again.

February Book Discussion - Shadowfever

P&P - Elizabeth - standing in breeze on

I liked the question format from January's book discussion thread. If... once others start to participate and post their responses as well, the questions will allow them to pick and choose which aspects they would like to respond to. Plus, it helps organize the thoughts so that it's not just one long, rambling post. (Me, ramble? Never.) Because Shadowfever was much longer than Bloody Valentine, there will be more questions. I tried to pick queries which would highlight the most important aspects of the book rather than just fan-girling it out over my favorite parts. However, I'm sure my preferences will be quite clear by the time this post is complete. Let's get started, shall we?

Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning

1. At the conclusion of the last book, Dreamfever, someone was dead, in part because of Mac. Was this person revealed to be who you thought it would be?

[If you have not read the book, I would recommend stopping NOW. Many spoilers will be revealed, and this is a book which is just too good to spoil it for yourself.] No, I did not expect Barrons to have died in the last book. Now, this is in part to my overwhelming loyalty and affection towards this character. While, obviously, I care about Mac, for me, Barrons makes these books. I could take the time right now to pen an ode to him, but I won't. I'm sure you have your own Barrons appreciation to savor.

Anyway, for me, Barrons is too integral of a character to kill off. While, yes, Mac still would have had the whole saving the world gig to keep her busy, what's the point of saving the world if there's nothing left for her to enjoy and love after the rescuing is over? Now, I realize this sounds very melodramatic and egotistical. Someone shouldn't save the world because of what it's going to do for them, but let's be realistic: capturing the book and restraining it was not the payoff fans wanted for this series. Rather, the payoff was Barrons and Miss Lane. Together. Being all Jericho and Mac. Together. And naked. A lot.

So, by killing off Barrons in the very first chapter, talk about being both a let down for
Shadowfever and for the entire series. Where do you go from there? Sure, Mac had ambitions to fix what was wrong, but we weren't sure if that would be possible. And part of what made the fight so enjoyable was reading about them going through it together. When they're apart, things just aren't as entertaining, aren't as special, and to contemplate an entire novel without both Barrons and the element of his relationship with Mac, well... it was disconcerting and disappointing. Fear not, though, because....



2. Were you surprised by Barrons' return, or did you anticipate it? Were you appreciative of the fact he can't die, or did it seem like a copout to you?

Oh boy did I appreciate Barrons' return!

On a more practical level, yes, I also somewhat anticipated it, because, like what was said above, there's really no point without him. However, what made it work was that Mac firmly believed that he was dead and that it was because of her actions that he was gone, so we got to see this transformation within her that was both frightening and fascinating. If it wasn't for his “death,” she wouldn't have become Mac 5.0, and I'm not sure the book would have ended the same way. Though a brutal experience, losing Barrons, mourning for him, feeling guilty because of her actions, and confronting just exactly what she was wiling to do for the people she loved – which, yes, included Barrons, all of these things changed her on an essential level.

It also didn't feel like a copout to me, because, though it was revealed that Barrons can't die, he still retained his mystery, because we still don't know what the hell he is. And it's not like he doesn't have weaknesses; they're just not potentially fatal ones. Plus, I mean, come on – it's Barrons! Why the hell would I want him to die? Learning that he can't? Yeah, that's just another reason for me to adore him.



3. After Barrons' “death,” Mac teams up with Darroc, wiling to do anything she has to – including sleeping with him – in order to get her hands on the Sinsar Dubh so she can remake the world with Barrons in it again. Reactions?

This decision made Mac strong enough to save the world; this decision made her even more vulnerable to failure. And that's why it was so compelling.

I wasn't shocked by how traumatized she was by Barrons' “death,” but I also wasn't anticipating this decision. What I found amazing about it was just how stupid and naïve Darroc, beause his vanity, could be... and Alina, too, for falling for him. Mac's seduction of him would have been far too easy, but it made complete sense because he was a former Fae with severe ego issues. But this is immaterial. What's important here is Mac and her decisions.

The fact that Mac was willing to sacrifice everything – including herself and her ideals – in order to create a world where Barrons existed again, especially when she had never once considered doing such a thing for her sister, spoke volumes. If I had not believed her words of loving him, this alone would have confirmed her feelings for Barrons. And, eventually, it was her love, her faith, and her trust in him which made Mac strong enough to defeat her greatest enemy, but, at the same time, this desperation changed her and would have continued to do so. Could it have changed her enough so that she would have become unrecognizable? As for it making her vulnerable, nothing makes a person more so than love, and, if nothing else, the Sinsar Dubh was a master of manipulating such devotion. If Mac would have continued down her self-destructive path, the book would have taken control of her, she would have lost her free will to it, and all powerful or not, she never would have remade the world. Even if she did, Barrons wouldn't have wanted her at that point. She wouldn't have been his Rainbow Girl anymore.



4. Mac starts to fear that she is the Concubine and then the Unseelie King. Did you believe either explanation of her background?

Honestly, yes, the Concubine idea made sense to me, and, before that, I had considered the idea of her being the child of the Concubine and the UK. Although Mac argued against his idea because of the amount of time which would have had to have lapsed for it to be possible, time is so different in Faery. Plus, with the UK's powers, it wouldn't have been a stretch at all, in my opinion, for him to somehow transfer her essence, made from combining his essence with the Concubine's, into a suitable human host whenever he wanted to, millions of years into the future or not.

Now, the idea that Mac was the Concubine would have been strengthened if it were possible for Barrons to be the UK, but, once that was disproven, I started to lose faith in that explanation, and I never once believed that Mac was the Unseelie King herself. While my argument against this idea is going to sound trite and even perhaps closed minded, it's also how I felt while reading the book. First of all, Barrons would never be attracted to a male, no matter how powerful and no matter what neat, pretty packaging the man came in. He's simply too masculine and heterosexual himself to ever entertain this possibility. And then there's Mac who is 100% girl, way too feminine to be the UK. While gender does not mean as much to the Fae, Barrons wasn't Fae, and Mac had been raised human. It just wouldn't have worked for me.



5. Though through coercion, Dani was the one to facilitate Alina's murder. Had you anticipated this? Your feelings towards the reveal?

For me, this was the biggest surprise of the entire book. I never would have predicted this. Never. And that's why it was probably the best reveal of the novel. Plus, you know, there's all the complex character development goodness, too, to appreciate about what this revelation did for the book as well.

Moning's decision to make Dani at least partially responsible for Alina's death was perfect because, in a way, Dani had become Mac, and Mac had become Alina in their relationship. Though different, their feelings towards each other were deep, and, though Mac was now the older, wiser sibling figure rather than the naïve, innocent baby sister one, this change in dynamics was important to her maturation. It taught her how to be a leader, it taught her to be less selfish, and it taught her maternal instincts as well. For a woman who was meant to save the world, those aren't traits to slouch about.

But then the truth was let out of the bag, and Mac was absolutely devastated. It stripped her down to her barest level. Everything she had been working for where Alina's death was concerned had been taken away from her, because, sure, she killed the Unseelie who physically murdered her sister, but she couldn't kill Dani without killing a piece of herself. The entire plotline had a decided Greek tragedy feel to it which, though complicated, often strip humans and their relationships down to the barest of levels. Things get interesting when this happens.

Furthermore, because of her devastation, Mac finally broke down some of the walls standing between her and Barrons. No, this wasn't what reunited... or, I guess, united them in the first place, but it certainly made what came next easier. By losing this part of herself, Mac was forced to grow up even more, confront even more of her fears, and really chip away at everything else to get to what her heart really wanted, what she needed. In the end, it wasn't revenge, the one thing she had been working on achieving for so long. And, once more, she became stronger. Embracing love rather than hate, which was a byproduct of this reveal, tends to do that.



6. Previously, we had read about a flashback of Barrons with a child. His child. It's revealed in Shadowfever that the little boy is alive... but out of his mind, a killer, un-killable just like his father, yet incurable of his madness as well. Thoughts?

I'm a sucker for children, and I'm an even bigger sucker for a strong, deadly man brought to his knees by a child. Barrons son did just this to his father. He also showed us just how compassionate and kind Mac can be, what kind of mother she would be. Though I wasn't sure what was going to happen when she finally approached the child in his cage, I never expected for him to morph and attack her. Kill her. Be the reason it was revealed that she couldn't die unless stabbed with either the sword of light or the spear. Be the catalyst Mac and Jericho needed to
finally be with one another again... and for good this time. To be the catalyst for them to finally become truthful with each other once and for all. But the best part about Barrons' child? He proved that Barrons could have children, and I have no doubt that Mac is fertile as well.

What can I say? I'm a sucker for my favorite couples having babies together as well.



7. Rowena was a traitor. Surprised?

Absolutely freaking NOT surprised. That woman was a liar, a manipulator, and she was constantly belittling and trying to discredit Mac. No matter what, from the very start of this series, Mac has been our heroine, and characters who so adamantly oppose the heroine of a book usually tend to be a bad guy... or girl in this case. It made perfect sense that the book would be able to corrupt her... if she wasn't corrupt already before the Sinsar Dubh came into contact with her, but that would a whole chicken and egg debate, and I don't want to jump aboard that never-ending loop-de-loop. It made perfect sense that she would have Dani murder Alina. And it was fitting as hell that Mac was the one to finally kill the bitch. Ding dong, I say. And good riddance.



8. Christian was becoming an Unseelie prince. Did you like this twist?

I did like this twist, immensely so. As someone who has read all of Moning's
Highlander books as well, it was nice to see those shining examples of men again, the Keltars, but I also find it compelling that one of their own, men usually considered so good and true that they had the sole responsibility of performing the Queen's sacred rituals, now is an Unseelie and within their ranks. And not just any Unseelie but an Unseelie prince. Plus, Christian, before, was such a wholesome character himself, but, now, he's being forced to confront his darker urges and desires. Combine this with his penchant for determining truth, and he suddenly went from being a boring, pale comparison of a character compared to Barrons to an interesting, pale comparison of a character to Barrons. (See. Preferences on full display.)



9. V'lane was Cruce; the DEG/DEB – Dreamy Eyed Guy/ Dreamy Eyed Boy – was the Unseelie King. Did you predict either?

Well, I can say that neither reveal surprised me... but for different reasons. Let's take V'lane first. I never liked him. He was vain, and arrogant, and, even when he was supposedly revealing a big truth, he never told Mac anything. Sure, much of the same things could be said about Barrons, but, like he always told Mac, actions spoke louder than words, and Barrons was certainly a man of actions; V'lane was not. He'd show up when I least wanted him around, and he was never there when Mac really needed him, but he always had an excuse. So, while I didn't know that he was the traitor amongst them, the viper in the nest, I wasn't shocked either.

With the DEG/DEB, this one I was somewhat anticipating. It was the way he talked to Mac – in riddles, the meaning of his words elusive... just like the conversations between the Sinsar Dubh and an unidentified person, the way he would just appear, the way that she saw one thing but Barrons didn't when at Chester's. Now, I didn't start coming to this realization until this final book, but I'm sure that if – no, when – I go back and reread the series, so many more clues will become perfectly apparent to me.



10. Were you satisfied with the conclusion? Moning is said to be working on another story set in the Fever world, but it won't be a Mac tale. Thoughts? Predictions?

Satisfaction is a tricky thing. While I very much so liked the ending of
Shadowfever and while I was pleased with the direction the book took, I also did not want to see it end. I need more Mac and Barrons; I need more Barrons! That was the most difficult part for me - knowing that this was the last book in the series. I wanted to savor it, read it slowly, but it was just too good to dawdle. [BTW, the cover art was SUPERB for this novel. Amazing. I carry hardbacks without their jacket, and so many people commented on the book when they saw it, asked about it even without the extra embellishment of the jacket.] I guess all I can hope is that, even if they aren't the focus of her next book, they'll still be connected; they'll still play a role... even if through another character's eyes.

As for who that character might be, I know that many readers (and, if I'm not mistaken) Moning, too, are quite fond of the Dani character. [On Moning's part, this is proven by the inclusion of the Dani POV chapters.] However, if it's her story we're going to read next, I wonder if there's going to be a time jump, because Dani's only 14 right now, and Moning's books are very sexual. [That is definitely NOT a complaint, just an observation.] Plus, with Dani, we still need to see some resolution to her relationship with Mac, we need to see her come to terms with her own role in Alina's murder, there's that third prophecy she mentioned, and who the hell is Dancer?

Other options: I'd like to see Christian's story continued. In addition, there are all of Barrons' men, too. As a Moning fan, I'm aware of the fact that she likes to introduce a family or a group of supporting/minor characters and then revisit them later in more detail with their own books. Then there's also the fact that the wall is still down, and there are all those Faery worlds as well. I see so many possibilities.

There is one thing I know for sure, though – whatever the book turns out to be, I'll be reading it. Oh, and I'll be buying the Mac graphic novel, too, coming out this fall. Barrons in illustrations? Undeniable.



General Thoughts:

Read. Read! READ
Shadowfever. You WILL NOT be disappointed... as long as you like the other books in the series. Whatever you do, do not jump into the series with this book and think to go backwards or work out of order. Reading these novels in order will do the mind good. Also, for anyone who has never read a Fever Series book before, they're complicated; full of rich mythology; there's so much manipulation and double crossing, misdirection; there are different creatures besides humans, creatures that aren't even labeled, and the humans themselves sometimes have great and fantastic powers; and some of the language – because of the Fae and Irish aspects – is challenging. If you enjoy fantasy or science fiction, though (with some romance tossed in, too, of course), then you should love them. I know I do. In fact, I can't wait to start the series all over again. They're that good.

January Book Discussion - Bloody Valentine

P&P - Elizabeth - standing in breeze on
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.

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