Possessed

After another trip to the local library, one of the books that found its way home with me was Possessed, by Kate Cann. The book read like a pretty creepy ghost story, but the main plot didn’t really involve ghosts.

Rayne has decided that she needs to get away from her mother, her three-year-old brother, her boyfriend, and the overall busyness of London. She finds a job at a country estate, Morton’s Keep, that is steeped in history. She has finally found the silence and the space that she so craved, but the eeriness of the mansion and the stories and sounds keep her up at night. Before too long, she meets a group of other teenagers her own age, who immediately befriend her. St. John, the group’s unofficial leader, also decided that he likes her and the two begin a relationship.

Things aren’t as they seem, though, and Rayne soon feels like her inclusion in this group is just for show and that she is being used. Rayne speaks to the owner of the house and discovers that quite a bit of evil occurred at the house, and that every so often, there are “reoccurrences.” And he feels like it’s happening again. Soon, Rayne is able to see things, and people, for what they really are and discovers the secrets of the house as well as her new boyfriend.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read. Parts of it, specifically some of the dialogue, didn’t seem to flow as easily as it could have, although this might be because the author is English and stayed true to local dialect. It wasn’t very distracting, though. The writing also seemed geared towards the younger age group of the YA genre, even though the book mentioned sex, which seems to not to be directed at a younger age group. Anyway, I found it entertaining, but I probably won’t read the sequel.

Hush, Hush

Continuing with my YA paranormal romance kick, I read Hush, Hush, by Becca Fitzpatrick. I’ve read a few differing reviews. It seems like quite a few people have extreme reactions to this book, either loving it or hating it. I really didn’t fit into either category. I liked it better than the last book I read, but I didn’t hate it. I didn’t think it was amazing either, though.

Nora Grey seems like a typical high school girl. She has a boy-crazy best friend, gets good grades, but doesn’t think twice about the boys at her school. Until she is assigned Patch as her biology partner. He has an edge to him, a danger that draws Nora closer. As she begins to see things that aren’t really there, she begins to direct her suspicions at many people around her. Patch must have beaten up a girl she doesn’t like. A new guy at school, Elliott, must have murdered his ex-girlfriend and now is after Nora’s best friend, Vee. It did seem like there was quite a bit going on in the villain department.

Also, there was the whole Twilight theme: I really want to kill you to achieve my own selfish means, but I love you, so I won’t. I want my cake and want to eat it, too!

Anyway, Nora has many questions about Patch’s mysterious past. As she discovers more about him, she is torn between wanting to be with him and wanting to run and hide. Patch is a fallen angel who has aspirations of being human. Killing Nora, a descendent of Patch’s Nephilim (half-fallen angel, half-human) vassal, would provide Patch with the means of attaining humanity. Conversely, if he saves a life, he will gain his wings back, albeit just guardian wings, which would allow him back into Heaven. But Patch’s vassal, Chauncey, has tracked him down and is determined to take his revenge on Patch. He knows that he can’t hurt Patch, so he will take what Patch loves. Nora is then faced with a decision to either die a meaningless death, or give Patch what he has wanted for so long.

Oh, and another pharmacist note. Nora is anemic, but for some reason she doesn’t take an iron supplement everyday. Instead, when she gets dizzy, or stressed out, it’s somehow because of low iron and she pops two iron pills and miraculously feels better. When did iron begin working like Xanax? This detail was ridiculous and irritating. No excuse for this sloppiness and lack of research.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. I read it fairly quickly, so I can definitely say it was entertaining. I haven’t decided if I will continue to read the series, but I do believe I’m ready for something a bit more original, though.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

There has been a lot of hype about this book. It has been touted as “the next great YA book.” But I don’t know if I agree. I was definitely excited to read about this book, based on everything I’d read. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, by Michelle Hodkin was not exactly what I expected, although it was still a good read.

Mara Dyer is in a terrible accident and wakes up from a coma in the hospital with no memory of that night. Her best friend, Rachel, her friend Claire, and Mara’s boyfriend and Claire’s brother, Jude, were all found under a collapsed building. Mara was the only survivor. She has become unstable and is suffering from PTSD, having nightmares and hallucinations, so her family moves from Rhode Island to sunny Florida in an attempt to allow Mara to start over.

Now attending a private school, Mara has to contend with the fact that she is the new kid and she definitely sticks out. It seems as if she has captured the attention of bad boy Noah Shaw, making every other female in the school jealous and out to get Mara. She is also warned away from Noah by her new best friend Jamie, but despite all the signs, she just can’t resist Noah.

Mara eventually remembers what happened the night of the accident and comes to grips with who she is and what she can do. Noah also has a secret ability that he shares with Mara, and he seems to think it’s a sign that the two of them belong together. I quite enjoyed the love story, probably a bit more than Mara’s self-discovery.

***SPOILERS***

Anyway, the thing that bothered me the most about this book is that it reminded me of something else I’ve seen. In the TV series “Heroes,” there are two characters, Maya (eerily similar to Mara, don’t you think), and Alejandro, who have certain abilities. Maya can kill people with her thoughts if they make her angry enough, and Alejandro is there to save her from this and prevent this from happening. Sound familiar? Now I know that it is very difficult to come up with a great original idea, but I just had a really hard time getting over this similarity.

I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy the book, because I did, or that I won’t read future books in the series, because I will. I thought the writing and the story were both very good, and I especially like how the author could sway my feelings of Noah so much. Initially, I couldn’t stand him, but by the end of the book, I loved him right along with Mara. Maybe all the hype about this book built it up a bit too much, but I still enjoyed reading it. And the cover is gorgeous, which didn’t hurt either.

And a side note, from a pharmacist: I was so happy to see that the author had done her drug research. Yes, Zoloft is an SSRI, and she listed its correct black box warning. And Zyprexa is an antipsychotic and is actually available in the dose that Mara was prescribed. I’ve read lots of books that get similar very simple facts completely wrong. It was just nice to see that she cared enough about these details to actually get them right!

The Summoning

On my last trip to the library, I picked up an armful of YA fantasy books. I did the same thing around this time last year in an attempt to jumpstart my brain for NaNoWriMo. One of the books I picked up was The Summoning, by Kelley Armstrong.

Chloe Saunders is a rich teen attending a high school for the arts. Her mother died when she was young and her dad travels a lot, so she is basically left with her nanny/housekeeper. While at school one day, puberty finally happens, and with it, some other changes that leave Chloe scared and confused. She begins to see, and hear, ghosts. Of course, this can’t be normal, and her Aunt Lauren, a physician, gets her a spot at the highly recommended Lyle House.

At Lyle House, Chloe is one of about six teens in residence. All of them have some sort of problem or issue, which is their reason for being there. Simon is charming and cute, and seems to be there only for his foster brother Derek, who has phenomenal strength. Tori is obnoxious and mean, and Rae has a special love of fire. Chloe is diagnosed with schizophrenia, but soon comes to realize that there is something else going on, something that binds them all together that is not mental illness.

I thought this book was okay. I really wanted to like it more, but the way it was written made it seem geared toward the younger portion of the YA target audience. Within the first few chapters, Chloe got her period for the first time. While I realize that this was just to mark the beginning of other changes happening in her life, it actually only served to annoy me. The plot was very good and parts were definitely entertaining. The book ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, and it did seem like the next book promised to be better, considering where the story was headed. However, at this point, I don’t know that I’ll ever actually finish the series. There are just too many other good books out there.

The Poison Eaters

I gave Holly Black another chance. This time, I didn’t read one of her novels, but a compilation of some short stories. The Poison Eaters and Other Stories includes twelve short stories, with subject matter that runs the gamut. Vampires, werewolves, faery, devils, elves, and other magical beings are just a few of the characters contained in these pages.

I believe my favorite story is Paper Cuts Scissors. It is about Justin, a young man who is trying desperately to get his girlfriend back after she has folded herself up and put herself in a Russian novel. He begins studying for a library science degree and finally gets a job organizing books in a man’s private library. After midnight each evening, characters come out of the book and have a party, hosted by the librarian. Justin returns one night with his girlfriend’s book, and watches as she comes out of the pages, meeting other characters and jumping into other books. But maybe she doesn’t really want out of the books after all.

Most of the stories here were very raw, dark tales. Many included sex, drugs, and alcohol. I can’t deny that that the author’s writing was excellent, but I can definitely prefer other types of characters and stories. It seemed like many stories were about very trashy people. That’s fine, it’s definitely real life, but that is not the only way to go, either.

So, basically, while I overall enjoyed this short story collection, I still haven’t made up my mind about this author. She’s a very talented writer, that can’t be denied. I have read about some of her newer books, and the story lines look very interesting, so it’s still possible that I will read more of her work in the future.

Immortal Beloved

Immortal Beloved, by Cate Tiernan is the first novel in a trilogy. It is (of course) another YA paranormal fantasy series.

Nastasya, or Nasty, is 449 years old, one of the immortals. In an effort to distance herself from the emotional pain of her past, she doesn’t let anyone get too close. She’s constructed a hard shell around herself, and she’s been living the party girl lifestyle for the past hundred years. Part of being an immortal is possessing magick. One of her partying friends using that magick in front of Nastasya for something terrible and she finally has a wake-up call. She doesn’t want to be dark anymore.

She has a memory of another immortal, River, from 80 years ago, who offered to help her. Not knowing what else to do, Nasty seeks her out. It turns out that River runs a sort of rehab facility for wayward immortals. There, she meets the stunningly gorgeous Reyn, (pronounced like “rain”), and feels oddly connected to him in some way. As the teachers at River’s Edge help Nasty to learn about herself and her magick, memories of her past sneak back into her mind, forcing her to evaluate where and who she has been, and who she now is. She slowly uncovers more about her legacy and past lives, including many terrible times she has gone through. Strangely enough, she sees Reyn’s face in one of her horrible memories. Nasty has finally found a place where she wants to belong, but is unsure if she can get past the strange and terrible way that she and Reyn are linked together. She is also unsure if she will be able to stay away from him.

I definitely enjoyed this book more than the last one I read, and I liked how the author left quite a few unanswered questions and mysteries that make me want to keep reading Nasty’s story. I enjoyed the magick elements, but they were not overpowering. I did have a bit of trouble getting through the first couple chapters. I didn’t like Nasty’s character at all, until she finally made a decision to try to be better than what she had been. The main complaint I have is that while Nasty is supposed to be hundreds of years old, she still spoke like a teenager. “Like, I looked at him, and like, thought….” It was a bit off-putting. Still, I’m eager for the next book, (to be released January 2012) to see what happens next, and whether Nasty continues in her new course of life.

Tithe

Since I’m a fan of young adult paranormal romance, I thought I’d give author Holly Black a try. I’d read some good things about The Modern Faerie Tales, so I decided that I’d read Tithe, the first of these books, and the author’s first book.

Kaye Fierch is a sixteen year old misfit. Her mother, a talented but unsuccessful musician, drags her from city to city. Finally, they end up in New Jersey, living with Kaye’s grandmother. Kaye and her friends smoke, drink, curse, and hint at being sexually active. She says she is Japanese, but has blond hair. She doesn’t go to high school, she shoplifts, and her best friend lives in a trailer park. She is hardly the expected heroine of a good adventure and love story.

Still, she captures the attention of Roiben, a knight of the Unseelie Court, when she saves his life. Unfortunately, she also has the attention of the Unseelie Queen, who wants to use her as a blood sacrifice, or the tithe, that will bind the solitary fey to the Unseelie Court for the next seven years. The solitary fey have other ideas though, and want to use Kaye for their own purposes.

This book was definitely a darker faerie tale than other books I’ve read. The beginning of the book was so irritating that I almost had to stop reading it, but towards the end, it did have some redeeming qualities. In some places, the writing was a bit unclear and difficult to follow. And I really didn’t like Kaye. She was not the type of person I thought deserved a sexy faery knight. I found her a bit disgusting, amoral, trashy, skanky…

Anyway, while I do not have a high opinion of this book, I might try Holly Black again. (When I got Tithe from the library, I also picked up two more books by this author.)

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