ARC Review: Team Human

Team HumanTeam Human by Justine Larbalestier & Sara Rees Brennan
Genre: Young Adult – Paranormal
Received: Amazon Vine
Originally Reviewed: February 20, 2013
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Description (via Amazon):

Readers who love vampire romances will be thrilled to devour Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan. Team Human celebrates and parodies the Twilight books, as well as other classics in the paranormal romance genre.

Mel is horrified when Francis Duvarney, arrogant, gorgeous, and undead, starts at her high school. Mel’s best friend, Cathy, immediately falls for the vampire. Cathy is determined to be with him forever, even if having him turn her could inadvertently make her a zombie.

And Mel is equally determined to prove to her BFF that Francis is no good, braving the city’s vampire district and kissing a cute boy raised by vampires as she searches evidence in this touching and comic novel.

*****

As I started reading Team Human, I couldn’t help but feel this was written as a good-natured poke at Twilight and all the vampire ridiculata left in its wake. However, the story leaves its parodying fairly early on and becomes a book in its own right, with characters who have flaws and an interesting world with its own set of rules. All the while written with wit, feeling, and reality.

Mel Duan is the protagonist of the book, who is full of character flaws. She is prejudiced against vampires, rude, thinks she always knows the right thing to do, and is a big buttinsky (I call her Meddling Mel). She’s also caring, loyal, helpful, well-meaning, funny, and charming in her own way. Basically, Mel is a real human being. There are two main storylines in the book, the first one about her BFF, Cathy, and her relationship with an uptight vampire. The other dealing with a mystery involving another close friend and her parents. Both are incorporated into the story well, as are the smaller B-plots. Mel doesn’t always come across in a very good light, which helps me fall into the world and believe it could be true. Nothing takes me out of a story more than an unrealistically perfect character. Not one of the characters in this book is like that, even Cathy, who does come close. I also love the fact that Mel would typically be the sidekick in any other story and Cathy the main character who falls in love with a vampire. Instead it’s the other way around, so we see the over-the-top relationship from the outside, and also from Mel’s rather small-minded point-of-view. It’s a great idea that luckily works thanks to the talented authors.

The book moves along nicely without seeming hasty, it has lessons that aren’t heavy-handed, it features love aspects but it isn’t a love story, and most importantly, it has character evolution and believable characters, mainly Mel herself. In the end I was surprised that I had gotten so caught up in outcome of the story and actually cared what happened to these people. Kudos, I’ll definitely be reading more from both Sarah Rees Brennan and Justine Larbalestier, and can only hope they conspire to write another book in the future.

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ARC Review: A Blood Seduction (Vamp City, Book 1)

A Blood Seduction (Vamp City, #1)A Blood Seduction by Pamela Palmer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Marketed as a paranormal romance, A Blood Seduction is much closer to the genre of urban fantasy with strong romantic/lusty elements (there is only one instance of “doing the deed” and that is very close to the end of the book). Quinn Lennox is the lead, and while she might not be the usual kick-ass heroine usually drawn upon in this field, she is far from the weakling I’ve seen others refer to her as. Face it, she was in way over her head, there’s no way in hell she could ever be a contender against these vampires, at least not in this particular book. Heck, I bet the indomitable Buffy would have had trouble. She could be smart and she made the occasional dumb move, who hasn’t? I like the fact that she isn’t perfect. Okay, she has to be saved, a lot, and she doesn’t have the most memorable personality, but this is only the beginning of the series and there is plenty of time for her to grow and come into her own. I rooted for her all through the book. I wanted Quinn to save her brother Zack and his friend/potential girlfriend, Lily, I wanted her to be able to use her magic, and I just wanted her to succeed and become even stronger as a person.

The world is well drawn, mostly on account of it being a magical copy of Washington, D.C. circa 1870, but with some modern conveniences thrown in as well. Okay, so I did groan at the Washington, V.C. (Vampire City), it is a bit cheesy, but luckily it was usually called either Vamp City or V.C., which both fit the atmosphere of the book much better. Parts of the city are abandoned and decaying, others a thriving compound for the different vampire families, known as kovenas. The vampires themselves are killer, quite literally. Gone are the pantywaists of recent ilk, we’re going back to basics (mostly) here. Not only do they feed on blood, but some also have to feed on either fear or pain as well. They go from zero to sixty in about a second, they have the super strength, mind control to entrance their victim, they have slaves who adore them (called slavas), and boy, are they are mean. But hey, it’s just in their nature, they can’t help who they are, except maybe for the love interest and possible future heroes depending on how the series goes. For those who are fainthearted, this ain’t the book for you. There are numerous disturbing scenes that depict torture or gore, I can handle it, but not everyone can. Ye have been warned.

Speaking of the love interest, Arturo “Vampire” Mazzo, he was, well, certainly mysterious. Due to his unswerving allegiance to his master, Cristoff (who I pictured as a 25 year old Lucius Malfoy played by Jason Isaacs, with a black goatee:
),
Arturo would turn his back on Quinn, yet the further on the harder it was for him to do so. His loyalty was being tested because of his feelings for her. Just to make things clear, this is a messed up relationship, some may not like that, but I thought it added a dose of reality and interest to the circumstances. Sure I felt like Quinn was an idiot at times to be attracted to this untrustworthy vampire, especially the very first scene that was just too early in the story for that to be included, but overall it works for the book. My absolute favorite relationship is the sibling one between Quinn and Zack. I thought the author did an awesome job conveying just how much Zack means to her. Basically he is everything to her and all she has. Her father may be alive but he was never there for her, he always sided with her stepmonster (Zack’s mother) instead of his firstborn. Creep. Anyway, despite her stepwitch’s hatred of Quinn and that Zack adored her from the time of his birth, and vice versa, then after high school he moved to D.C. where she lived, he’s always been there for her, even when she was being punished. It’s really a sweet and respectful relationship. She’d do anything to save him and she tries like hell all throughout the book, which doesn’t always work out so well.

This is definitely the start to a series, and while there is an end to the book, there is still much to be told. In the fates of Vamp City, Quinn’s sorcery, the relationship between her and Arturo, plus much more I don’t want to give away. I’d recommend that if you’re looking for a romance to go elsewhere, but if you’re a fan of evil vampires, darkness, don’t mind abnormal relationships, and just want to have a bloody good time, then what are you waiting for?!

Originally Reviewed: September 20, 2012
Received: Amazon Vine

Kindle Review: Alien Invasion of the Zombie Apocalypse

Alien Invasion of the Zombie ApocalypseAlien Invasion of the Zombie Apocalypse by Ford Forkum

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An amusingly abnormal apocalyptic alien adventure awaits!

Alien Invasion of the Zombie Apocalypse tells the tale of a species of bored aliens who spin a wheel to decide which planet they want to invade. Well, guess what lucky planet the wheel landed on this time. Yup, good ol’ Earth. Unfortunately for the Zyrplexians, they pick the wrong day to pick onon the third rock from the Sun and their plans go awry, to say the least, and that’s all I have to say about that. For more, read the story, it’s much more fun that way.

This is goofy, humorous, absurd satiric short story that doesn’t require any deep thinking to read. The ragtag group of characters aren’t written about in any great depth and the plot might rocket by, but that’s part of the story’s charm; there’s no reason these need to be more fully explored (unless it ever expands into a full-length book, naturally). Besides aliens, zombies, and humans, vampires also poke their non-sparkly heads into the fray too. It’s a silly bit of fun that I had a great time reading, with the occasional guffaw bursting forth at a one-liner or nutty situation.

If you like passages such as these:

From inside the warship, they hardly looked like a rabble of troublemaking thugs. They appeared more like a bunch of uniformed teddy bears on a cheer-up mission to planet Lollipop, where they would launch an attack of hugs.

or

“I never would have imagined that if vampires turned out to be real, I’d be more repelled by their personalities than their appetite for human blood.”

…enjoy B-movies, and adore alliterations (all of which are right up my alley), then you might enjoy this off the wall story and the harmless, campy entertainment value it provides.

A bit of trivia: This is the first book I read on my Kindle Touch. I so happy I got a tear in me eye. ;P

Originally Reviewed: September 10, 2012
Received: Kindle freebie