Chain Letter (Chain Letter #1)Based on both my memories and the condition of this paperback, Chain Letter was one of the Christopher Pike books that I revisited most often in my teenage years. The plot is a better than average take on the I Know What You Did Last Summer story, because Pike’s villain pushes the guilty teens to act out in self-destructive ways. The pranks are fun if not exactly consistent, and the climactic scene where Alison is chased through her home and empty housing development by the villain is exciting and tense.

This book was much, much better than Pike’s Whisper of Death, but there were still some aspects that disturbed me while rereading it from an adult perspective. Massive spoilers are below the break.

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I recently came across a box of books from my teenage years, and most of them are Christopher Pike novels. I used to get every one of his new books and read them over and over. Some of them were just straightforward dramas but others involved supernatural elements, so I thought I’d post about them here as I reread them.

Whisper of DeathWhisper of Death is about Rox, a young woman who takes a stressful out-of-town trip with her boyfriend, Pepper. The pair return home to find that their town is empty. Their family, friends, and neighbors have disappeared. The radio and television play only static. Even long distance phone calls go unanswered. Rox and Pepper eventually find three other teens, and the group starts to wonder if their predicament can really be related to a dead classmate who seemed to have the power to control those around her.

I’ve got hazy, nostalgic memories about all the Pike books I’ve read, but rereading this as an adult was troubling. A lot of things about the book were creepy (in a bad way). A plot summary and my full spoiler-filled reactions are under the break.

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Entwined, by Heather Dixon

August 17, 2011


I often end up with mixed feelings about novels based on fairy tales, and this retelling of one my old favorites, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, is no exception.

I liked Azalea’s interactions with her sisters, and I especially liked that she seemed to mature as the story went on. Unfortunately the story was so packed with princesses and suitors that only the heroine got much attention. One of the secondary relationships was adorable, but the main romance felt tacked on.

The princesses got caught up in a cycle of sneaking away, being tired, and getting into trouble with little other movement in the plot. It all started to feel like “dance, rinse, repeat.” The antagonist took a turn for the menacing in the end, but that mostly managed to make me wish he’d managed more than blandly creepy earlier.

The setting was interesting and well-described, and the author did a good job of revealing details slowly. Certain other aspects of the writing didn’t work for me, though. Moments of pretty fairy-tale prose kept clashing up against modern slang, and things tended to get muddy during the action scenes.

I guess I like it best when adaptations go deep into the characters or add an unexpected twist to a classic story, and despite its promise, this one really didn’t do either of those things.

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:

oncedeadOnce 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.

awakeningThe 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).

huntedHunted, 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.

Not recommended.

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.

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In Untamed, Zoey Redbird has to deal with the drama explosion that surrounded her at the end of the previous book. Most of her friends are angry about Zoey’s lies, so with all three of her boyfriends out of the picture Zoey is largely isolated. After some disturbing encounters (including Aphrodite having visions of Zoey’s death), Zoey decides that it’s time to be more honest with the group. Once the members of the circle learn the reasons for her deception, the cold shoulder starts to thaw – though Zoey’s vampire ex is understandably less forgiving when it comes to her infidelity.

Zoey eventually learns that the recent events at the House of Night are linked to an ancient evil that threatens both vampires and humans. She and her friends must work together to bring the conspiracy out into the open, and to fight against it they need to trust both each other and some unlikely allies.

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In Chosen, Zoey Redbird spends a lot of time hiding things. Zoey’s mentor, Neferet, can’t know how many of her secrets that Zoey has discovered. Zoey’s inner circle can’t learn that their friend who rejected the change has become an undead minion of evil fighting to keep her sense of self. Zoey has to sneak out to see her imprinted human boyfriend and sneak around to explore an inappropriate flirtation with a teacher. The person that Zoey most needs to keep in the dark is her very understanding vampire boyfriend, Erik. As you can imagine, this is not exactly the best way to nurture a relationship.

When a vampire is murdered, the House of Night jumps into action to protect its members from the humans outside their walls. But Zoey knows that not all of the threats are from outsiders, and the one person she can rely on for help is her former rival.

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