Tag Archives: YA fiction

Book review – The Reformed Vampires Support Group by Catherine Jinks

Blurb

Click to see Good Reads page

Nina Harrison became a vampire in 1973, when she was fifteen, and she hasn’t aged a day since then. But she hasn’t had any fun, either; she still lives with her mum, and the highlight of her sickly, couchbound life is probably her Tuesday-night group meeting, which she spends with a miserable bunch of fellow sufferers, being lectured at.

But then one of the group is mysteriously turned to ashes . . . and suddenly they’re all under threat. That’s when Nina decides to prove that every vampire on earth isn’t a weak, pathetic loser. Along with her friend Dave, she hunts down the culprit ─ and soon finds herself up against some gun-toting werewolf traffickers who’ll stop at nothing.

Can a bunch of feeble couch potatoes win a fight like this? Is there more to your average vampire than meets the eye?

My thoughts

This book is heaps of fun. It’s definitely not your normal vampire tale (as you can tell by the blurb) and that’s what attracted me to it. I enjoy vampire stories (yes, I’m a twi-hard) and I was keen to see how Jinks put a new spin on this age-old myth. I also chose it as part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge, in which I committed to read six books by Australian women authors and review at least three of them this year. This is the third book I’ve read but the first I’ve reviewed.

Anyway, back to The Reformed Vampires Support Group! Nina and her friends are a sorry bunch. I’m glad that I (as a reader) didn’t have to sit through a normal support group meeting, because they sound deadly dull (pardon the pun). Instead, I was taken on a crazy, pot-holed journey as the group of vampires and Father Ramon, their long-suffering priest friend, tried to work out how to deal with the vampire slayer in their midst. As you can imagine, when you’re weak, lethargic and likely to hallucinate if you go without your daily Guinea Pig, a vampire slayer is really bad news. But the way Nina and her friends try to handle the situation just makes things worse and soon they’ve got some homicidal werewolf traffickers wanting to kill them too. Oops!

TRVSP is told in first person, and for the most part, I really enjoyed Nina’s voice. She’s dry, sarcastic and somehow simultaneously down-trodden and light-hearted. Her scathing opinions of the other vampires in her group (and vampires in general) often brought a smile to my face, and I found her character arc both interesting and believable.

However, I felt that the narrative could have been a lot tighter (with many redundant sentences removed), and a narrative device used twice in the book (described by the narrator herself as ‘cheating’) broke me out of Jinks’ world and smacked of ‘the easy way out’. The multitude of dialogue tags drove me slightly nuts – murmured, ‘wanted to know’, nagged, advised, inquired, exclaimed, whined, mused, growled, demanded, added, chided, remonstrated, announced, protested, pointed out, squawked – and that’s just in the first chapter. I find colourful dialogue tags quite distracting, and I’ve read a few writing books that strongly advise against them. (To be honest, I’m not sure whether creative tags used to annoy me before all of the writing books brought them to my attention, but that’s another issue!) They probably would’ve annoyed me a lot more if this had’ve been a serious book, but I’ve got to admit they did suit the tongue-in-cheek tone.

The story lagged in some parts as the vampires spent pages upon pages deciding what to do next, but on the whole I was kept entertained and enjoyed getting to know the saddest bunch of vampires that ever lived existed. I’m looking forward to catching up with the characters again in the Abused Werewolf Support Group.

I recommend TRVSG to anyone who enjoys comical paranormal teen fiction. Avid fans of spine-chilling stories with sexy, violent vampires might want to choose a different book!

My rating

3.5-stars

3.5 stars

What’s your opinion?

Have you read The Reformed Vampires Support Group? If so, what did you think? If not, do you plan to?

My 1-5 scale
1: Terrible. I couldn’t finish it.
2: Dissatisfying.
3: Good but not great.
3.5: A solid, enjoyable read but still some elements not working for me.
4: Really enjoyable with very few flaws OR flawed, but I loved it anyway.
4.5: Unputdownable. Close to perfect. I’ll rave about it to anyone who listens.
5: Perfection (i.e. pretty much unattainable).

3 Comments

Filed under Book review, Reading, YA fiction

What I didn’t like about The Hunger Games series

**WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SERIOUS SPOILERS. ONLY CONTINUE IF YOU’VE ALREADY READ OR DON’T INTEND TO READ THE HUNGER GAMES SERIES**

In anticipation of The Hunger Games movie release later this week, I finally read Catching Fire and Mockingjay, books two and three in The Hunger Games series. I’ve got to admit, I didn’t enjoy them nearly as much as I’d expected.

Don’t get me wrong, I did like them. But I didn’t oh-my-god love them like I did the first book (I reviewed the first book a while ago and gave it 4.5 out of 5).  Catching Fire seemed a bit repetitive of The Hunger Games, and I wasn’t that enamoured with the clock concept of the arena or the majority of the characters Katniss and Peeta shared the arena with.

Despite this, I still burned through the pages of Catching Fire (pardon the pun), and read Mockingjay even faster. I loved the first two-thirds of Mockingjay, with all of the lead-up to the rebels’ attack on the Capitol. But it was the attack itself and the resolution of the series that really let me down. After all of the build up, having the attack end in a drug haze was really disappointing. I guess I was expecting an epic battle victory, like in Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. Maybe I missed something, but for me, even with the ceremony where Katniss shot Coin and Snow died, the finale to the war between the Capitol and the districts felt rushed and unfinished.

This is also how I felt about the resolution of the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale. When Katniss asked Gale whether the bomb that ended it all was his design, I had no idea that was going to be their last conversation. So I was dumbfounded when Greasy Sae told Katniss later that Gale had got a job in District Two, and that was the end of it. Where was the heartbreaking moment with all of them present where Katniss had to decide whom she truly loved? Gah! Ripped off!

I also felt that the reunion of Katniss and Peeta was nice, but not sufficient. After three books of a painful love triangle and a significant chunk of time of the last book spent with Peeta wanting to murder Katniss, all we were rewarded with was a couple of pages – mainly in summary-style – of Peeta and Katniss falling back in love. Really? That’s it? Sorry, but that wasn’t enough for me. Not after everything we went through to get there. I would’ve liked at least another ten pages or so exploring their relationship and also giving us more of a picture of how the world re-built itself post-Hunger Games.

And on a final note… Prim. Dear, sweet Prim, the reason Katniss got involved in the Hunger Games in the first place. Why did Prim have to be blown up?? Why why why?? That really hurt. I really wish that hadn’t happened. And I honestly don’t know why Suzanne Collins felt the need to do it. Couldn’t Katniss, Peeta and Prim have enjoyed the post-Hunger Games world together? Maybe I’m too soft, but I would have preferred that MUCH more.

I know almost everyone adores The Hunger Games series, so I’m interested to know whether anyone else had similar feelings to me? Were you disappointed by the lack of pay-off? If not, why not? What did you enjoy about the ending of the series? I’m really interested to hear what other people thought.

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Filed under Book review, YA fiction

Creepy Hollow launch!

I’m delighted to announce that my awesome blogger friend Rachel Morgan has launched her Creepy Hollow series, which kicks off with the release of the first story, GUARDIAN. I’ve had the pleasure of a sneak preview of GUARDIAN, and I can honestly say it’s a fantastically fun and entertaining read.

GUARDIAN introduces readers to the magical world of Creepy Hollow, a realm where fae creatures both safe and definitely-not-so-safe dwell. Things are cool as long the fae stick to their own realm. It’s when they find their way into the human world that things start going wrong…

1. Receive assignment.
2. Save a life.
3. Sleep.
4. Repeat.  

Protecting humans from dangerous magical creatures is all in a day’s work for a faerie training to be a guardian. Seventeen-year-old Violet Fairdale knows this better than anyone—she’s about to become the best guardian the Guild has seen in years. That is, until one of her assignments—a human boy who shouldn’t even be able to see her—follows her into the fae realm. Now she’s broken Guild Law, a crime that could lead to her expulsion.

The last thing Vi wants to do is spend any more time with the boy who got her into this mess, but the Guild requires that she return Nate to his home and make him forget everything he’s discovered of the fae realm. Easy, right? But Nate and Vi are about to land themselves in even bigger trouble—and it’ll take all Vi’s training to get them out alive.
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To help us celebrate the launch of Creepy Hollow, Rachel has dropped by to answer a few questions – in video no less! – about the series and her decision to self publish.
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Thanks so much, Rachel! (Readers, please don’t comment on the fact that Rachel raises one eyebrow more than the other. She’s very embarrassed about it. ;-))
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You can get your hands on an e-copy of GUARDIAN at Amazon US, Amazon UK or Smashwords now.
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The Creepy Hollow Series
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Author Info
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To find out more about Rachel, the Creepy Hollow series, and its characters, check out the blog tour that’s happening over the next two weeks.

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18 Comments

Filed under Rachel Morgan, Writing, YA fiction

Book review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Book blurb (from Good Reads)

The Hunger Games coverIn the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

My thoughts

Some books are best savoured slowly, reading a chapter every day on the commute to and from work, pondering all the possible directions the story might take. The Hunger Games is not one of those books. It is a book that needs to be devoured, preferably in one sitting. I started reading it on a Friday night, read late into the evening, woke up and continued reading on Saturday. I was actually annoyed that I had a birthday dinner for me and my dad that night, because all I wanted to do was keep reading. I finished it that Sunday, postponing things like doing the washing and the grocery shopping and writing my Sunday night blog post just so I could reach that final page.

Why is The Hunger Games so addictive? For me, it was the brutal-yet-fascinating plot. Quite frequently, I felt sick with anticipation and concern as I sped through the scenes, wondering how Katniss was going to escape alive. And as the story developed, I became attached to other characters competing in the Games – which just made it even worse. With only one competitor allowed to live, people I cared about were going to die no matter what – it doesn’t get any more gripping than that.

The writing style – first person, present tense – added to the immediacy of the story as you see every horrific event unfold in real time through Katniss’s eyes. You also get to hear her thoughts, which are often very different to the persona she portrays to the watchful cameras of the Capitol. I know a lot of people don’t like present tense, but I love it and felt it suited this story perfectly.

Katniss is one hell of a main character. She epitomises the word ‘heroine’, with her courage, perseverance and resourcefulness. But while I marvelled at her strengths, I was simultaneously shaking my head at her emotional ineptitude. This only served to make her more realistic – we all have flaws, and growing up as a provider and protector in such a brutal world would no doubt take a toll on your emotional capacity.

The Big Brother/reality TV element of this book was another compelling factor. For me, the ‘Games’ were like Survivor crossed with Gladiator – to the death, on live TV. The prospect both sickened and fascinated me, and made me stop and question the direction our world is taking. Already, many of us live a voyeuristic life and sometimes I hear comments about reality TV contestants that make me wonder if the person has forgotten they’re talking about a real human being.  I don’t know where the trend towards reality TV will take us, but I truly hope (and thankfully doubt) it isn’t anything close to what’s presented in The Hunger Games.

Apart from Katniss, the two characters I connected with the most were Peeta (the male competitor from Katniss’s district) and Rue (the youngest contender in the Games). As a baker’s son, Peeta comes from a more privileged background than Katniss. As a result, he doesn’t have the same survival skills as she does, but his best asset is his pure heart. At twelve years old, Rue is easily the most vulnerable competitor but she has a hidden resourcefulness that was fascinating to discover. For fear of spoilers, I’m not going to say any more about either Peeta or Rue except that I truly enjoyed getting to know them.

The only criticisms I have of this book are quite minor. One of the supporting characters, Effie Trinket, came across as two-dimensional throughout the entire book, which is never a good thing.  And… I would’ve liked more from the ending. I know, I know – it’s a trilogy. but still, I’d hoped we might’ve received just a little bit more closure at the end of the first book. The main problem with this lack of resolution is I’m now itching to see what happens in books two and three when I already have a pile of books eagerly awaiting my attention (not to mention my own manuscript!).

I have no doubt that I won’t be able to resist the pull of this series for long. I just hope that when I do pick up book two, it’s the first day of a long weekend so I can do nothing but read!

4 & a half stars

My review: 4.5 stars


Your turn

Have you read The Hunger Games? If so, what did you think? If not, do you think you will? Andrew Leon of Strange Pegs commented that he’s only ever heard girls raving about this book (never guys), so if you’re a guy and you’ve read it, I’m particularly interested in hearing your thoughts!

My 1-5 scale
1: Terrible. I couldn’t finish it.
2: Dissatisfying.
3: Good but not great.
3.5: A solid, enjoyable read but still some elements not working for me.
4: Really enjoyable with very few flaws.
4.5: Unputdownable. Close to perfect. I’ll rave about it to anyone who listens.
5: Perfection (i.e. pretty much unattainable.).

24 Comments

Filed under Book review, Writing

WiP Part 1: off to beta readers!

Before I get onto the subject of tonight’s post, I just wanted to say a big HAPPY ANNIVERSARY to my wonderful husband, Mark. Seven years ago today, we promised to spend the rest of our lives together and I’m so glad we did. I was a month shy of 21 when we tied the knot, and Mark was 24. We may have been young, but we knew what we were doing. Here’s some photos from our special day:

The wedding party

Cally on her wedding day

Wedding: sitting among the flowers

Oh the memories! 🙂

Okay, enough reminiscing. On to tonight’s topic! I sent the first part of Tangled, my novel-in-progress, off to my Beta Reader Group One peeps tonight. It’s quite an exciting and scary feeling. Mostly exciting though. I’ve been working on this novel for so long, I’m really looking forward to hearing people’s thoughts about it.

I thought you might be interested to hear how I’ve approached this stage of my beta reading, so I’ll give you a look at the email I’ve sent my beta readers, which includes a link to my purpose-built reader survey.

Hi there

Thanks again for offering to beta read Tangled. I really appreciate the time and energy it takes to provide considered feedback. Tangled Part 1 (about 45K) is attached! This is coming to you a week earlier than I originally indicated, however if you can still have your feedback to me by 17 October, that would be great. Feel free to get it to me as soon as you like though. 🙂

You can go about providing feedback however you feel most comfortable. I’d really appreciate it if you could fill in this survey I’ve created, but if you find surveys stifling, please feel free to ignore it. At the least, it will provide you with a guide about the type of feedback I’m looking for.

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In addition to the survey, I’d appreciate more nitty-gritty feedback marked on the manuscript (either in tracked changes in Word or scribbled on a hard copy – I’m happy to pay for postage). Please mark any spelling or grammar errors, passages that read awkwardly, and passages that make you smile or cringe (either because of what’s going on or because of the quality of the writing!). I’m just as interested in the passages you like as the ones you don’t, because it’s always good to know what’s actually working!

Please remember, I’m after your honest opinion, so don’t be afraid to tell me what you really think. If you have any concerns about anything I’ve said here, please just let me know.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

Thanks
Cally

Your turn

What do you think of the survey? Too much? Too little? How are you going with your own writing? Please share. 🙂

23 Comments

Filed under Beta readers, Editing, Progress update, Revising, Tangled, Writing, YA fiction