June 13, 2009
Lately I’ve been reading a lot of YA. Here are a few of the books I’ve finished in the past month or so:
Once Dead, Twice Shy, by Kim Harrison
A girl who died after her junior prom is able to stay in the world of the living thanks to a mystical amulet stolen from the supernatural being who killed her. Thankfully a light reaper and guardian angel are trying to help keep her safe from its previous owner- or at least as safe as a dead girl can be.
Madison, the heroine of the story, is one of the best YA characters that I’ve come across lately. She’s fun to read about. But I’m not sure if I’m that interested in the premise yet. This is another one of those “first in a series” books that was actually introduced in an anthology (2007′s Prom Nights From Hell), so the amount of backstory and world-building info that had to be recapped didn’t exactly help the flow of the book. And since I don’t think I’ve said it yet this month, I still hate that trend of separately-published short stories that contain series-critical information.
I’d recommend this book to any YA readers, but do yourself a favor and track down the short story first.
The Awakening, by Kelley Armstrong
This is the second of Armstrong’s Darkest Powers series, it uses the Otherworld setting but no major players from the adult series have made an appearance so far. At the start of the story, Chloe is locked in the headquarters of the Edison Group, an organization that approaches the supernatural from a scientific perspective. Her only shot at escape is to pretend to lead her captors to the hiding place of her friends who are still on the run.
I liked the characters and the concept, and this one was more action-heavy than the first. It felt like too many of the character interactions involved arguing with each other, though. Having characters in a novel compare their activities to fictional stories is a pet peeve of mine, and Chloe, with her interest in movies, does this a lot. Still, I’ll happily read the next in the series because I really enjoy Armstrong’s world.
It’s an enjoyable series so far, but if it sounds interesting then make sure you start with the first one (The Summoning).
Hunted, by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
This is the fifth House of Night book (the series starts with Marked), but it’s the last one I’ll be reading.
After the exciting events and character growth of book four, it feels like the series basically just reset to square one. Some storylines that felt nicely wrapped up started all over, Zoey falls back into the same old mistakes, and god forbid she not have three love interests at any one time. Despite her advanced boyfriend-juggling skills, Zoey sounds more and more like a much younger character, and the series has gone back to “Zoey can fix all problems with relative ease because she’s super fledgling” land.
February 5, 2009
The Summoning is the first book of Armstrong’s young adult trilogy. It takes place in the same world as her other novels, but don’t worry about missing anything if you haven’t checked those out. The main character is Chloe Saunders, a teenager who is sent to a group home after seeing an angry ghost. The staff members at Lyle House say that she needs therapy and medication, but strange events continue to happen around Chloe and her unusual housemates.
November 30, 2008
In Living With the Dead, Hope Armstrong and her boyfriend Karl Marsden take an extended trip to LA in order to spend time with Robyn. She’s Hope’s recently widowed, fully human best friend, and she works as a PR rep for an up-and-coming celebrity socialite. When Robyn’s client is killed, she makes several extremely bad decisions and becomes the main suspect in the murder investigation.
When she calls Hope and Karl for help, they use their respective chaos half-demon and werewolf skills to find out what really happened. The search involves a secretive group of supernaturals, a powerful Cabal, a ghost, and a cop with a tiny dose of necromancy ability. As the case unfolds, clearing Robyn starts to seem less important than keeping her alive. All this is made more complicated by the fact that they’re trying to keep Robyn in the dark about the supernatural world.
October 19, 2008
July 11, 2007
I have to admit that I wasn’t thrilled when I heard that Kelley Armstrong’s next book was going to be about Jamie Vegas. The celebrity spiritualist/necromancer was entertaining at times as a supporting character, but I didn’t think she could carry a novel – at least not without being annoying.
So I was pleasantly surprised to find that No Humans Involved worked for me. I should have remembered that Armstrong’s characters often seem different (and more sympathetic) in their own books.
In the story, Jamie is hired to work with other spiritualists on a television special about Hollywood ghosts. She has to keep up her performance while using her real powers to investigate a mystery, and of course the drama comes up during a highly anticipated visit from werewolf alpha Jeremy.
The plot was good and fast-paced, but the setup was what really made this book stand out. I enjoyed the television show angle, the other spiritualist characters, and all of Jamie’s professional interactions. I also loved Armstrong’s insight into the techniques of television psychics, and was glad that Jamie’s act was focused on entertainment instead of using either cold reading tricks or her abilities to exploit people.
It was nice for a change to have a heroine that wasn’t super strong or didn’t have really versatile powers. Jamie is the best at what she does, but her specialty is a narrow one. That makes even slight supernatural trouble more dangerous for her than for most of the other characters. Her struggle to prove herself despite her limitations led to some questionable decisions, but also made the story more interesting.
It was nice to see Jeremy outside of his alpha role. I’ve read some reviews by people who thought he was out of character in this book, but I can’t say I agree with them. The book repeatedly emphasized the idea that his life was usually dominated by his responsibilities, so I don’t think it’s strange at all that he’d be different as Jeremy than as the Werewolf Alpha.
There wasn’t anything I disliked about this book enough to bother bringing up. I’d recommend it to anyone intrigued by the idea of a lower-powered character or a television psychic with real powers. Those who have read the rest of the series will obviously get more out of No Humans Involved, but I don’t think it’s really necessary to enjoy the book. Those who have been through the complete series and want to read things in order may want to try Armstrong’s story in the Dates From Hell anthology first, it introduces a new character who appears in No Humans Involved.