+ Kisses and Lies (Scarlett Wakefield Series) by Lauren Henderson.
Blurb: Talented gymnast and amateur sleuth Scarlett Wakefield is hot on the trail of the murderer of Dan McAndrew, her first crush. Dan mysteriously dropped dead at Scarlett's feet at the first exclusive party she ever attended--just moments after kissing her. Scarlett and her tough American sidekick, Taylor McGovern, follow a trail of clues that leads from a posh private club in London to a Chelsea mansion. Scarlett must cast a wide net to catch the right suspect--and to clear her own name. But a startling discovery means that she must drop everything--including her budding relationship with Jase Barnes--and travel to the McAndrew family's Scottish castle to hunt down Dan's killer. Will Scarlett become the target of a dangerous predator who has no intention of stopping at just one murder?
This is the second book in the series (the first was Kiss Me Kill Me (Scarlett Wakefield Series); I never reviewed it here, but the capsule review I wrote in my Books Read 2010 file was this: The mystery, simple as it is, caught my attention and made me want to keep reading the series to get answers. The main character, Scarlett, is often annoying and frequently judgmental, especially toward fat people, but by the end of the book, I was fond of her despite that).
Kisses and Lies continues the mystery in which I was so interested and Scarlett is far less judgmental. Toward the end, I was a little worried I wouldn't be interested in the next book because the intriguing mystery from these first two was wrapping up, but the very end left me wanting more again.
Five Reasons to Read the Scarlett Wakefield Series:
1) Mystery! The first boy Scarlett ever kissed died right after she kissed him. What looks like a simple, if terribly traumatic, accident quickly turns into a mystery that has Scarlett understandably obsessed.
2) Friendship! Scarlett abandons her old group of friends for a shot at popularity and suffers some serious consequences for it. However, all is not lost, because she soon meets Taylor McGovern, tough USAian who wants to be a private eye, and the two girls strike up quite a friendship. Though they spark off each other a lot in the first book, because they're both driven and strong and too much alike, by the second, their friendship is wonderful.
3) Make-outs! Yes, the first boy Scarlett kissed dropped dead in front of her. It would totally make sense for her to never kiss again! And it does take awhile, but by the second book, Scarlett is having fun make-outs in which no one dies! Make-outs in trees and by lakes and in SECRET because...
4) Class issues! Scarlett, though not titled because her father's title was entailed to only go to male heirs, but she is landed. Her boy's family has taken care of that land for generations. His father hates the idea of crossing those class lines. There's no word yet on whether Scarlett's grandmother feels the same way, but it seems likely. This makes for tense flirtations and make-outs!
5) Castles! Well, one castle, in Scotland, and there are some delightfully creepy moments at said castle as Scarlett tries to solve the mystery.
+ 13 to Life by Shannon Delany. This is the first book in a new series and I picked it up because I am always looking for new werewolf fiction to read. Sadly, this one disappointed me a lot, though by the end, enough things came together I'll probably read the second book in the series eventually.
Now that I've typed up both the pro and con list, it's really heavily weighted toward the con, but by the last couple chapters, I was enjoying the story a lot and excited to find out more about the werewolves, despite the problems I had earlier in the book.
Five Reasons to Read 13 to Life:
1) Werewolf mytholgy!
Delany has some really fun werewolf mythology going on here, especially when it comes to their life expectancy and the rate they mature and physical issues, things like that.
2) Russian mafia + werewolves!
This has the potential to be really interesting (basically some of the Russian mafia wants to take back Russia using werewolves, which were scientifically created or something?). Sadly, the pacing in the book is weird and the majority of what we get of this is shoved into the final couple chapters. I'm hoping the next book in the series deals with this more. (This also has the potential to be really racist.)
3) Bad-ass alpha werewolves and packs that are families!
Their mother is apparently totally bad ass and totally destroyed people trying to save her mate, their father, and they thought she was dead but really she's alive and injured and captured by the Russian mafia. I hope this is explored more and is very interesting in the next book.
Despite my issues with some of these make-outs (see below), there is some really fun kissing and flirtations going on in the book. Not just between Jessie and Pietr, either, which I found really interesting. Sadly, Pietr is kind of an asshole early in the book, which tempers how fun I found their romance.
Though there's some weirdness with one of their friends I do not even have the time to get into, I really liked the friendship between Jessie and Amy and the way Amy tries to be the voice of reason when Jessie is martyring herself.
Five Things That Made Me Slam Shut 13 to Life and Reconsider Finishing It
1) Small town that isn't.
Apparently, Junction is a small town that has both a giant supercenter (I'm guessing Wal-Mart, though it's not named) and a good-sized mall. The more Junction is describe, the less it sounds like an actual small town, and more that it's being called a small town to give the locals an excuse to a) gossip and b) know everything about each other.
2) Jessie's hypocrisy.
Jessie is supposed to be this really great person who is working hard to forgive other people for the bad things they do even as she judges them A LOT, but she keeps making out with boys who have girlfriends and doesn't seem to see how this is a PROBLEM. One of those is Pietr, who is dating her best friend. I'm supposed to empathize with Jessie? And dislike the best friend, Sarah?
3) Stereotypical secondary characters.
This is done to the extreme. Basically every single high school character (who isn't a werewolf, Jessie, or her two best friends) was a stereotype. The bitchy popular girls. The geeky boys. The cruel jocks. Etc. No one had any depth at all and the stereotypes were tired even for high school stereotypes.
All of this combined with a lot of cheerleader hate. Of course all the cheerleaders are bitchy popular girls. Throw in some cheerleaders-aren't-athletes stupidity and stuff like, "Madison's Bulldogs broke through a painted banner held by impulses to kick up their heels and punch skyward with tiny pompons. I didn't bother to hide my disgust at their short-skirted display, frowning. I tried not to focus on the fact that the cheerleading squad managed, with their every hop and split, to utterly undermine the hard-won feminine power that generations of women had struggled so hard to achieve." and I slammed the book shut on.
The big one for me was the frequent use of crazy as a pejorative. There's a lot of talk about not playing the crazy card to get out of trouble and about how Jessie isn't going to break down, she's too strong to be broken, it's not like she's crazy, etc. Not only am I frustrated by the idea that you can't be both strong and crazy and by the use of crazy so frequently as a pejorative, but they don't even mean crazy when they talk about her. She's in mourning because her mother died in a car accident right in front of her (and burned alive when the car caught fire).
(I have some issues with the car catching on fire, too, but WHATEVER, I'll let it go.)
There was also "flying blind" when her dad really means he doesn't know how to raise a teenage girl. The crazy stuff from above. Casual use of "retarded" as a pejorative.
"[Vice Principal Perlson] responded in his rich island accent, flexing his dark hands. [...] He shamed me with a single look. Probably a prerequisite of being a VP. Or maybe it was some sort of weird voodoo power he had."
Because of course, the lone character clearly identified as being black is a) from an island and b) has some sort of weird power of VOODOO. (Yes, I realize she's not being serious, but that changes NOTHING.)
+ Blood Feud (Drake Chronicles) by Alyxandra Harvey (Drake Chronicles #2)
Blurb: He looked about eighteen, same as Magda and me--though technically I was really 232 years old. He must be one of the legendary Drake brothers. The shape of his jaw and his narrow nose were distinctly aristocratic; he would have been more at home among the nobles of my time. It made me both distrust him and feel oddly drawn to him. I straightened my spine. I wasn't here to admire pretty boys. It was inexcusable to be distracted, even for a moment. It's been centuries since Isabeau St. Croix survived the French Revolution. Now she's made her way back to the living, and she must face the ultimate test by confronting the evil British lord who turned her into a vampire and left her buried for two hundred years.... That's if she can control her affection for Logan Drake, a vampire whose bite is as sweet as the revenge she seeks.
This is another second book in the series (the first is Hearts at Stake (Drake Chronicles, Book 1) and once again I never reviewed it here, but from my Books Read file: Excellent, entertaining, intriguing story up until the final battle, which seemed really rushed and slightly ridiculous. The characters are great, though it was sometimes hard to tell the brothers apart, I love the friendship between Lucy and Solange, and I can’t wait to read more in this series.)
The action scenes in Blood Feud are somewhat less rushed, but I didn't even mind the remaining problems or the slight cheesiness of the magic use because Isabeau was such a bad ass character and her romance with Logan, though very fast, was a ton of fun.
Five Reasons to Read Blood Feud
1) Isabeau! She's a woman with power and agency, driven by revenge, who learns that there is more to her world than killing the vampire who created her. She's amazing and layered and a lot of fun.
2) Vampire politics! Now that the Drakes are the ruling vampire family, readers get to see a lot more about vampire politics and the way things will change because the new Queen doesn't want inter-vampire squabbles but truces instead. Plus we get to see a lot more about the different types of vampires.
3) Romance! Isabeau and Logan's romance is a little quick, but it's nicely dramatic and very entertaining. Plus, of course, make-outs! And dramatically rescuing each other! And fighting together to save their world!
4) Hounds! Isabeau's band of vampires have magic and hounds and caves. I'm particularly fond of their hunting hounds. Their powerful, intense, amazing hunting hounds.
5) Family! My favorite part of this series is the Drake family itself, the way they love each other, the way they try to protect each other, the way they disagree with each other in healthy ways. The way they open their arms to others, because family isn't just a thing of blood but of love and choice.
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