Review: Half-Blood by Jennifer L. Armentrout

October 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Star Rating:

Date released: 18th October 2011
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Author’s website: www.jenniferarmentrout.com
My source: Amazon Kindle Store
Part of a series: Yes, #1 in the Covenant Series
Find it at: GoodReads | Amazon | B&N

GoodReads synopsis:

The Hematoi descend from the unions of gods and mortals, and the children of two Hematoi-pure-bloods-have godlike powers. Children of Hematoi and mortals-well, not so much. Half-bloods only have two options: become trained Sentinels who hunt and kill daimons or become servants in the homes of the pures. Seventeen-year-old Alexandria would rather risk her life fighting than waste it scrubbing toilets, but she may end up slumming it anyway. There are several rules that students at the Covenant must follow. Alex has problems with them all, but especially rule #1:Relationships between pures and halfs are forbidden. Unfortunately, she’s crushing hard on the totally hot pure-blood Aiden. But falling for Aiden isn’t her biggest problem–staying alive long enough to graduate the Covenant and become a Sentinel is. If she fails in her duty, she faces a future worse than death or slavery: being turned into a daimon, and being hunted by Aiden. And that would kind of suck.

This is a very difficult book for me to review. It’s sheer bad luck on Half-Blood’s behalf that I’d just recently finished reading Richelle Mead’s Last Sacrifice just a few weeks ago. A lot of people have been comparing Half-Blood to the Vampire Academy series, and… yeah. The similarities and parallels are almost too good to be true. So, I’ll try my best to review this in isolation.

Don’t get me wrong! I just thought I’d be a bit more engrossed… a little more caught up in the story. It was flashy, sure, there were some sweet and heartfelt moments but for some reason, I just wasn’t feeling it.

What worked for me:

  • Seth, as a character. I never knew what to make of him and his constant irritation of Alex should have made me, as the reader, dislike him automatically. But I liked his strangeness and his reserved, sassy manner.
  • Pacing. Both a good and a bad thing – the story started off full throttle and it pulled me in quickly.
  • The idea of Apollyons. Ingrained in the history of the Hematoi, it was a creative and unique element that I thought was great and separated Half-Blood from the Vampire Academy series.
  • The prose. It was well written, lyrical almost.

What didn’t work for me:

  • The (lack of) world building. The world of the Hematoi is blurry at best. Yes, we are told about the cultural differences, the hierarchy of society and the Hematoi aligned version of creation via the Greek Gods but I wasn’t satisfied. It seemed very here-and-there, and I would have liked to have seen more of it.
  • Alex, as a character. She was subliminally … stupid. Aiden called her “brave”, but everything she did had me rolling my eyes at the stupidity. You’d think that being on the run for 3 years would have made Alex a bit more stoic, a little more wary and on her guard, but nope. She would always rush into things without thinking, running off her mouth – damn the consequences, and not taking other people into consideration (that is, until she got nabbed and Caleb’s life was on her head).
  • Pacing. What I didn’t like towards the end of the book was that it stuttered and lost the momentum of the first few chapters after Alex’s return to the Covenant. Where was that fast-paced, got-me-on-the-edge-of-my-seat action that appeared in the beginning of the book? It was like it went fastfastfast, then a third in and almost right till the end of the book when Alex goes out to hunt her mom, it was sloooow and then it was ahhhquickquickfaster! kind of pacing.

Parallels with Vampire Academy:

I’m adding this in here nonetheless, and I know it’s absolutely sucky of me to, but I honestly can’t help but be bothered by it. A lot of people are reviewing on GoodReads that the similarities are huge and even to the extent that Armentrout should be sued for ‘stealing ideas’. I’m not going to go that far, but the resemblance in both circumstance and action taken by the characters are uncanny.

  • Capture and return to the Covenant. Living out in the mortal world only to be caught and dragged back to where they once were (Vampire Academy), similar especially as it was within the first few chapters.
  • Having a hot, bad-ass trainer. Aiden and Dmitri, and both of them falling for their pupils.
  • Taking on the responsibility of having to kill their loved ones: Alex and her mom and Rose with Strigoi-Dmitri. And escaping the confines of their respective schools, both Alex and Rose defied authority by seeking the one that they loved with the determination and burden of being the one to kill them.
  • Pures and Half-Bloods … and Dhampirs and Moroi.
  • Deacon and Adrian, as the troubled character who drinks for a reason other than the like of it.

I try never to compare books with others, but I just can’t with this one, hence the 2.5-3 stars. I’m sorry Armentrout, I tried desperately to love Half-Blood. Here’s to hoping that Pure, the second book in the Covenant series, has a lot more creativity and originality.

3 Stars

Review: Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews

September 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

Star Rating:

Date released: 7th March 2007 
Publisher: Ace
Author’s website: www.ilona-andrews.com/
My source: Amazon Kindle Store
Part of a series: Yes, #1 Kate Daniels series
Find it at: GoodReads | Amazon | B&N

 

 

 

GoodReads synopsis:

When the magic is up, rogue mages cast their spells and monsters appear, while guns refuse to fire and cars fail to start. But then technology returns, and the magic recedes as unpredictably as it arose, leaving all kinds of paranormal problems in its wake.

Kate Daniels is a down-on-her-luck mercenary who makes her living cleaning up these magical problems. But when Kate’s guardian is murdered, her quest for justice draws her into a power struggle between two strong factions within Atlanta’s magic circles.

The Masters of the Dead, necromancers who can control vampires, and the Pack, a paramilitary clan of shapechangers, blame each other for a series of bizarre killings—and the death of Kate’s guardian may be part of the same mystery. Pressured by both sides to find the killer, Kate realizes she’s way out of her league—but she wouldn’t have it any other way…

What worked for me:

  • Kate, as a character. She’s so badass, so cynical and possesses razor sharp wit and sarcasm, I loved her from the start. She’s independent, determined and stubborn to boot – all personality traits I identify with Alpha Females. I love that she can take care of herself and doesn’t go overboard with the “I’m badass, don’t even think about it” attitude. She talks big, but she can back it up.
  • The little folklore and mythology stories interspersed between the big picture. I loved learning little tidbits about other cultures and their mythos and I admire the amount of research that Ilona and her husband Gordon put in to give the book a bit more juice and credibility.
  • Curran. Oh my, Alpha Male personified. He was hot, and I loved the way his part was written, just fantastic.
  • The range of interesting characters. Saiman the metamorph, Jim the werejaguar and Derek the werewolf. They all added great elements to the book. The only one I’m not too keen on is Ghastek, but eh.
  • The dialogue. I’m big on dialogue and the snappy banter between Curran and Kate was swoon-worthy. And Kate’s thoughts were great too, one of my favourite quotes from the book:

He was describing that moment when you realize that you are lonely. For a time you can be alone and doing fine and never give a thought to living any other way and then you meet someone and suddenly you become lonely.

  • The relationship (or, the laying of bricks for the eventual foundation of a relationship) between Curran and Kate. It was torture, because we knew (probably from the very beginning) that Dr. Toothpaste wasn’t the man for Kate and that it was Curran she was heading for the entire time. You can’t help but root for the Beast Lord! The suspense Andrews was building towards an eventual get together between Kate and Curran was amazing, tiny little flickers here and there, so subtle.

What didn’t work for me:

  • The flow of the story. Even after reading it a second time, I still felt like the events of the story are disjointed, and Kate makes illogical leaps of intuition. The plot stumbles a lot, and I feel like the only reason why I liked reading this book in the first place is the isolated, personal scenes between Kate and other characters when she goes off to investigate.
  • Some elements of the world: i.e. ‘the magic fell’ and ‘tech was up’. It was just… strange. There was a logical explanation of it within the confines of the book, but it just didn’t work for me.
  • The upir. I just didn’t feel like there was enough juice behind this villain, and it seemed so… flashy? I’m not sure what word to use. Is it possible to say that the mystery and the eventual reasoning behind the upir’s crazy massacre was over the top and ridiculous? Anyway, I didn’t like it. Bono seemed too over the top, and the ‘final battle’ with the dragon and Nick from the Order almost had me dropping the book because it was just too much.

As the first book in a series goes, this one didn’t actually impress me as much. I was confused throughout most of it but lived for the action sequences, and the tortuous scenes between Kate and Curran because in my heart I knew they were destined. Kate is a character I can admire, most definitely. She’s a woman who feels comfortable in her own skin, knows how to relatively deal with her demons and isn’t shy to stand up for herself and others.

I felt that since it was the first in the series, Ilona Andrews tried too hard to make the plot epic when it didn’t really need it. The uniqueness of the heroine and her history, the world, and the other major players in the series kept the reader interested enough. Just by throwing the reader through a dozen twists and turns to make the plot development ‘exciting’ just served to confuse.

Kate and Curran are one of my most favourite couples in fiction and they made my Top 10 Fictitious Couples list and the Kate Daniels series made my Top 10 Paranormal Series list.

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