Tempted, by PC and Kristin Cast

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Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Zoey needs a break after some serious excitement. Sadly, the House of Night school for vampyres doesn’t feature breaks on its curriculum – even for a High Priestess in training and her gang. Plus juggling three guys is no stress reliever, especially when one is a sexy Warrior so into protecting Zoey that he’s sensing her emotions. Wider stresses lurk too, and the dark force in Tulsa’s tunnels is spreading. Could Stevie Rae be responsible for more than a group of misfit fledglings? And Aphrodite’s visions warn Zoey to stay away from the immortal Kalona and his dark allure – but they also show that only Zoey can stop him. She’s not exactly keen to meet up, but if Zoey doesn’t go to Kalona he’ll exact a fiery vengeance on those closest to her. She just has to find the courage to do what’s necessary, or everything that’s important to her will be destroyed.

Thoughts: My mid-book impressions of this book stayed pretty much accurate throughout the last half, too. Sometimes characters had great moments of sounding like their old and realistic selves, but other times they seemed to be just cardboard cutouts of themselves. Like they were actually reduced to stereotypes and stopped being actual characters at all. Aphrodite got much more shallow and vacuous overnight, Stevie Rae became more countrified, Erin and Shaunee became stereotyped teenage girls who giggle at silly things… All things they did before, yes, but now it seems that’s about all there is to them, and it was a big disappointment.

The changing point of view continued to be annoying, although it served a greater purpose later on than in the beginning. Most of the book still took place from Zoey’s perspective, still in the same first-person voice I got comfortably used to in the earlier books, but then chapters from Aphrodite’s, Rephaim’s, Stevie Rae’s, and even Heath’s perspectives, switched to third-person, would interrupt the flow. They would give important information and detail important events, but they still didn’t fit as well into the story.

It took me far longer to finish this book than I wanted it to, because I was so very bored through most of it. Maybe I’ve just been reading the others so much that I burned myself out of them, or maybe this one really was a deal-breaker, but either way, I’m going to have a nice long break from the series before I tackle the next book. I’m afraid I can’t recommend this one to anyone but die-hard fans of the series, and yes, I’m aware that saying that about the sixth book of a series is pretty pointless. If you made it this far, you may as well keep going.

But I can’t say you’ll enjoy it. Imporant things happens, but the majority of the book felt like filler, dull and unappetizing. The ending, I admit, is quite exciting and interesting, but when you have to go through an entire book to find about 10 pages of seriously heavy and intense action, the awesomeness of the ending is so heavily tempered with disappointment that even that doesn’t inspire me to pick up the next one in a hurry.

Definitely taking a break from the series.

Hunted, by PC and Kristin Cast

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Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) The good news: Zoey’s friends have her back again and Stevie Rae and the red fledglings aren’t Neferet’s secrets any longer. The bad news: Ancient evil with the face of an angel has been let loose – that and various other nasties (whose faces aren’t so angelic). Grandma Redbird is in trouble. Heath is in trouble. The House of Night is in trouble. Okay, let’s face it – Zoey’s whole world is in trouble! But when the trouble comes from a being who appears to be beauty personified, will the world believe it? Especially when only a teenager and a group of misfits are the only ones who really understand the danger he brings. Will Zoey have the strength and wisdom to reveal the truth? Especially when, in the House of Night, the truth is often hard to come by…

Thoughts: While this book wasn’t what I’d really call slow, it did seem slower than the previous books in the series, proceding at a calmer pace with few exceptions. The beginning was a bit tedious, and it seemed the amount of circular discussion was little more than padding for a higher page-count, but this was redeemed later when the generally sedate pace was shattered a few times by serious and chaotic events.

The ending of this book can be likened to a season finale. Most of the plot has been tied up, the immediate danger has passed, but there are still questions unanswered and things left unfinished, and there’s still plenty of potential for the story to go on. That’s why, I suppose, there are still two books out in this series that I have yet to read, though.

I admit the ending was a little cheesy, the power of love overcoming the power of darkness in a very obvious way. But from what I’ve seen of the series so far, that doesn’t mean it was a “hammered home” moral message. This series does a good job of expressing realistic ambiguous morality. Jerks can be on the side of good, people doubt each other and their motives, and things are not always as good or bad as they seem. So perhaps the events at the tail end of the book will end up haing far-reaching consequences that are not as bright and happy as they may at first seem, and I’m interested to see how accurate that thought turns out to be.

One thing to note, though, and I’m not sure where the fault — if it can be called so — lies here, but the prophecies and poems that pop up frequently are getting much easier to interpret. I’m not sure if that’s because I’m able to see things from the perspective of the outsider, the observer who isn’t preoccupied with the fight to stay alive, or if it’s because the authors are just making them really obvious to figure out. Yes, sometimes they throw me a little (I actually felt sure for a time that the “Night” in Kramisha’s poem refered to Erik, what with his last name actually being Night and Damien mentioning that the aspects mentioned in the poem were likely to be people), but for the most part, I’m seeing well in advance what the characters realise only at the very last second.

Such is the way of prophecies, though. They’re either ridiculously hard to interpret, or ridiculously easy. They may be an overused plot element, but they’re bloody hard to pull off in a way that leaves the reader guessing at anything while still having them make sense in the end.

And now, on to book 6. I’m so close to the end of this series I can taste it!

Untamed, by PC and Kristin Cast

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Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Life sucks when your friends are pissed at you. Just ask Zoey Redbird – she’s become an expert on suckiness. In one week she has gone from having three boyfriends to having none, and from having a close group of friends who trusted and supported her, to being an outcast. Speaking of friends, the only two Zoey has left are undead and unMarked. And Neferet has declared war on humans, which Zoey knows in her heart is wrong. But will anyone listen to her? Zoey’s adventures at vampyre finishing school take a wild and dangerous turn as loyalties are tested, shocking true intentions come to light, and an ancient evil is awakened in PC and Kristin Cast’s spellbinding fourth House of Night novel.

Thoughts: Each book thus far has given me the reaction of, “Ooh, now the real action’s started!” And then the next book shatters that opinion and makes me state it all over again. Pieces of the full story are slowly and intriguingly revealed as this series goes on, the way a good series should do and the way so many fail to do well. It ended at the right spot to make me desperate to pick up the next book and start reading to find out what happens next, what new mysteries will be hinted at and what new details will be revealed.

I want to say so much about the final few chapters of this novel, but I can’t do so without giving massive spoilers, and I’d much rather my reviews tantalize people into reading the novels for themselves rather than laying the story out for them in advance. Suffice to say I was surprised and impressed at the whole circle ritual (though not particularly surprised at the fulfilling of the earlier prophecy).

I was particularly interested in the melding of mythologies presented in Untamed. This has been touched on before, in the beginning where Nyx states that she has gone by many names in many different mythologies, but here there’s a melding of Christian and the neo-Wiccan beliefs of the vampyres (Sister Mary Angela saying that she views Nyx as an aspect of the Virgin Mary), and Christianity with Cherokee folktales (Kalona’s relation to the Nephilim).

I was also pleased to see an elaboration on the concept of the People of Faith. In previous books, this group had been presented as though they were a thinly veiled metaphor for Christianity as a whole, but here we see quite clearly that there are merely a denomination of the religion instead of the whole representation. Whether that was originally intended or enough readers complained that Christianity was being given a bad rap, I don’t know, but this book also has references to Wicca as a seperate religion from the vampyre’s religion also. It’s nice to see elaborations.

I do have one minor complaint with these novels (well, aside from the painful and ironic commentary on geeks, that is), and that’s the fact that the authors all too frequently have Zoey or her friends comment on Damien and Jack’s homosexuality. Not in a derogatory way. Quite the opposite, in fact, the vast majority of the time. But the comments are needless, and come across less as character thoughts and more as a way of the authors saying, “Look at how okay we are with the idea of being friends with gay people.”

It also seems that the authors have little grasp on how to write gay males without having them be more than a little effeminate. Jack’s giggling, Damien’s interest in fashion and shopping… Especially in Jack’s case. I wonder if they felt they had to do that to get readers to recongize homosexuality (a sad thought in itself) or because they actually don’t understand that there really are macho-man type gay men in the world.

Still, I’m impressed with the series as a whole and look forward to reading the rest.

Chosen, by PC and Kristin Cast

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Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Dark forces are at work at the House of Night and fledgling vampyre Zoey Redbird’s adventures at the school take a mysterious turn. Those who appear to be friends are turning out to be enemies. And oddly enough, sworn enemies are also turning into friends. So begins the gripping third installment of this “highly addictive series” (Romantic Times), in which Zoey’s mettle will be tested like never before. Her best friend, Stevie Rae, is undead and struggling to maintain a grip on her humanity. Zoey doesn’t have a clue how to help her, but she does know that anything she and Stevie Rae discover must be kept secret from everyone else at the House of Night, where trust has become a rare commodity. Speaking of rare: Zoey finds herself in the very unexpected and rare position of having three boyfriends. Mix a little bloodlust into the equation and the situation has the potential to spell social disaster. Just when it seems things couldn’t get any tougher, vampyres start turning up dead. Really dead. It looks like the People of Faith, and Zoey’s horrid step-father in particular, are tired of living side-by-side with vampyres. But, as Zoey and her friends so often find out, how things appear rarely reflects the truth…

Thoughts: I first read the back of this book while standing in line at a drug store checkout, and had rolled my eyes at the mention of Zoey’s “three boyfriends.” A powerful vampire who’s all that and has guys fawning over her and it’s oh so hard to choose between then… Blech. Pass!

Then I read the first book. And the second. And now, as I end the third novel of the House of Night series, I am amused at how much my initial reaction echoes the major theme of this book: things are not always as they seem.

The plot gets deeper, darker, and much more interesting. The first half was a little slow to get going, and the by the middle of the book everything exploded into a torrent of suspense and action and intruige. Some things I had suspected in advance. Others hit my like a ton of bricks.

And as always, I was impressed by just how adult a YA novel can be, and as tired as I am of some of the attitudes portrayed, I do have to give the authors credit for treating their readers like mature intelligent people and not trying to hide the gritty facts of life or sanitize anything. The world is messy and painful and full of swearing and sex and betrayal. Once more, this series proves that it’s capable of being real without wallowing in darkness like it’s going out of style.

I’m definitely looking forward to reading book 4!

Betrayed, by PC and Kristin Cast

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Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Fledgling vampyre Zoey Redbird has managed to settle in at the House of Night. She’s come to terms with the vast powers the vampyre goddess, Nyx, has given her, and is getting a handle on being the new Leader of the Dark Daughters. Best of all, Zoey finally feels like she belongs–like she really fits in. She actually has a boyfriend…or two. Then the unthinkable happens: Human teenagers are being killed, and all the evidence points to the House of Night. While danger stalks the humans from Zoey’s old life, she begins to realize that the very powers that make her so unique might also threaten those she loves. Then, when she needs her new friends the most, death strikes the House of Night, and Zoey must find the courage to face a betrayal that could break her heart, her soul, and jeopardize the very fabric of her world.

Thoughts: One of the biggest complaints I see about this series is that the lines are too clearly drawn. In the first book, you know that Neferet is good, and you know that Aphrodite is terrible and not to be trusted or liked, and no two ways about it.

Then book 2 comes along and blows these conceptions out of the water. Nothing is a certain as it was in the first book, and so I can only assume that the people who wrote those comments read only the first book of the series and didn’t bother to continue.

The plot is really starting to thicken here. More mysteries are revealed and are made more confusing, Zoey’s world starts to get much more complicated, and I don’t just mean her mundane issues of, “Oh, which guy should I date?” (Which does wear on the reader after a little while. Come on, Zoey, your love life may be complicated, but there’s more going on than whether or not you’re going to date the old, the older, or the new.) The lines that seem so clearly established in book 1 start to desolve, and everything started to get much more complicated.

I was impressed by the way Stevie Rae’s death was handled in this. Yes, I admit to shedding a sentimental tear during that scene. Zoey’s shock afterward was very believably done, very realistic. That’s what I get struck by more and more as I read on. These books, for all that they have their problems and their bits that irk me, are so believable. Characters act like real people. They aren’t two-dimensional, they have their layers, and I feel that the authors actually know how to write teenagers.

Unlike some authors who write sanitized cardboard cutouts of teenagers.

I’m very much looking forward to the next book, to figure out more about what’s happening with the dead fledglings (does anybody else think that “Dead Fledglings” sounds like a heavy metal band?) and about Neferet’s duplicity.

Marked, by PC and Kristin Cast

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Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) The House of Night series is set in a world very much like our own, except in 16-year-old Zoey Redbird’s world, vampyres have always existed. In this first book in the series, Zoey enters the House of Night, a school where, after having undergone the Change, she will train to become an adult vampire–that is, if she makes it through the Change. Not all of those who are chosen do. It’s tough to begin a new life, away from her parents and friends, and on top of that, Zoey finds she is no average fledgling. She has been Marked as special by the vampyre Goddess, Nyx. But she is not the only fledgling at the House of Night with special powers. When she discovers that the leader of the Dark Daughters, the school’s most elite club, is misusing her Goddess-given gifts, Zoey must look deep within herself for the courage to embrace her destiny–with a little help from her new vampyre friends.

Thoughts: This is another one of those books that I expected to suffer my way through and then be done with. I read it first just to say that I’ve read it, that I’ve given it a try, and that it was nothing special and didn’t deserve half the hype it was getting.

I didn’t expect to enjoy it nearly as much as I did.

The world that’s created is similar enough to our own that readers can relate to many different aspects, and there’s some interesting melding of concepts. Vampyres are essentially blood-drinking Wiccans, and the People of Faith are fundamentalist Christians. Vampyres are known to exist, and as they’re stereotypically attractive and talented, many of them become artists and celebrities that we know of in our own reality, like Nicole Kidman.

The plot gets a little cheesy at times, and isn’t the most complex thing you can imagine, but it’s interesting, and for all its simplicity it’s fun to read.

The thing I enjoy the most about this books is just how believable the characters are. Unlike a lot of young adult novels, this book doesn’t even try to sanitize teenage life. People swear. They experience sexuality and get confused by it. They get drunk and high. They experience emotional highs and lows. I’ve read so many YA novels that tread on the darker side of reality without actually making it dark, and it’s nice to see a book filled with teenagers actually acting like teenagers.

The main character, Zoey, is preachy and a bit self-involved and shallow, and no attempt is made to rationalize these characteristics away. Nor are they such glaring faults that the character becomes a charicature from exaggeration. She’s a bit of a Mary Sue with her grand powers, but she’s not reduced to being all about said powers either. There’s no high moral ground that she’s taking, and though she’s Goddess-chosen to do certain things, even she doesn’t deny that some of her motives are selfish.

For a modern teen vampire novel, this book is surprisingly well done, and I recommend it highly to those who enjoy that genre of book. Truly, you won’t be disappointed.