Book Review: Betrayed (House of Night Book #2)

This blog is only about a month old, and already I’m starting to slack. I haven’t had the time to prepare anything of my own to post (I guess that comes with being a scientist by day, aspiring smut writer by night), but for now here is another book review.

I enjoyed the second House of Night book, Betrayed, much more than the first. The first one was entertaining, but it had to set everything up so it didn’t exactly pull me in. But Betrayed had a lot more action in, and the Casts weren’t afraid to push their characters in new directions. You start seeing characters you hated in Marked in a different light, and characters you loved turn out to have a more sinister side. I love it when authors can blur the boundary between good/evil, instead of having clear sets of heroes and villains. Although the House of Night books aren’t quite there yet, the Casts start to play with this in the sequel.

I don’t want to summarize the book too much because it always ends up sounding like the pitch on the back of the book, but I will say that Betrayed is part paranormal romance, part murder mystery. Human teenaged boys are winding up dead, their blood sucked dry. They are also all boys that Zoey has some connection to. The unresolved subplot from Marked becomes one of the main focuses in Betrayed: Zoey finds out the truth about the “ghosts” of the supposedly dead vampyre fledglings. Through clues revealed through the first person narration that Zoey doesn’t even quite understand, the reader connects the dots faster than she does.

 You’ll either love or hate how the Casts try to distort your opinion of Aphrodite. Ok, I’m going to make another Harry Potter comparison…Aphrodite reminds me of the female Draco Malfoy, and not just because they’re both blonde. Like Malfoy, Aphrodite has affluent, control-freak parents, and although she has some moments of brief redemption, she’s basically mean and weak. I wonder how much this will change as the series progresses.

Also, Betrayed is waaaaay sexier than Marked. Zoey has THREE young men in her life: vampyre fledgling/actor Erik Night, her human ex Heath, and now Loren, vampyre Poet Laureate and part-time professor. Although Zoey is only 16, not gonna lie, the Loren and Zoey subplot was my favorite. He’s everything you could want in a book crush: Mysterious, sexy…yeah, basically those. But I kept switching back and forth between Team Loren and Team Heath. Since Heath is a human, he and Zoey have that forbidden-love thing going on. Although Erik Night sounds like the perfect boyfriend, his character is too bland for me to really root for him.

So, in general it was an excellent read. However, there’s still something missing from this series that I can’t put my finger on. I guess I’ll just call it the “epic” quality. The books don’t have that epic feel to them that some authors are able to create.

Anyway, I’m taking a break from this series to finally read the 50 Shades trilogy…almost done with the first one.

Book Review: Marked (House of Night Book #1)

Well, I’m back from a fantastic week-long beach vacation, over which I finished Marked, the first House of Night novel written by the mother-daughter writing duo P.C. and Kristin Cast. The book sets the stage for an alternate reality in which humans and vampyres coexist (and in which, apparently, some famous country stars are vampyres). Fledgling vampyres are humans whose vampyre DNA gets triggered during adolescence; they are Marked by a Tracker vampyre and must leave the life they know to be guided through the change by adult vampyres. However, not all fledgling vampyres are guaranteed to make it through the transformation and will die.

The book follows Zoey Redbird, a teenager experiencing some typical high school problems as well as some troubling family problems, who is Marked and transfers to the House of Night, a school for young vampyres. In a nutshell, at her new school Zoey clashes with Aphrodite and her powerful clique the Dark Daughters, crushes on the handsome budding actor Erik Night and fends off her obsessive human ex-boyfriend. Although her distinctive Mark initially sets her a part from the other newest fledglings, she ultimately finds a place for herself at the House of Night with a group of genuine and loyal friends.

In general, I really liked this book, although it didn’t suck me in like other series in the same genre have. Also, not gonna lie, my initial reaction to the whole vampyre school thing was that it sounded like a Harry Potter copycat. But I decided later that this is an unfair judgment – J. K. Rowling most certainly borrowed from other sources, and Harry Potter is so ingrained in our culture now that it would be hard not to think of it when reading another “school for [insert fantastical human/creature here].” And they’re obviously very different books. The House of Night sounds more like a typical American high school (you know, except for the part where they’re all going to be vampyres, and go to school at night – which was an awesome touch). The authors do an excellent job of incorporating pagan elements and rituals into their vampyre culture (I’m not describing them as “pagan” to mean something bad, that’s just the only word I can think of to sum it up). Although in my first post I wasn’t enamored with the first person narration, it definitely grew on me, although I’m still not entirely convinced that teenagers really sound like that. But it’s engaging and funny, and Zoey is a likeable, believable character. (Her favorite cereal is Count Chocula, which she realizes now is quite ironic – another nice, humorous detail the Casts include.)

So, if you’ve read The Vampire Diaries, Twilight or any similar books, I definitely recommend giving Marked a chance. I’m excited to have a new young adult paranormal series to, uh, sink my teeth into for the rest of the summer (cliché intended).


“Look At Us Now”

This may be another little piece of smut. (But S. L., last time you told us you write about things other than smut?! Lies.)

I think I wrote this scene after I saw X-Men: First Class last summer (epic move, LOVE Michael Fassbender). So the male character, Paris, is supposed to be some sort of superhuman. Also, I thought that their names, Serena and Paris, went really well together, and then I remembered that Sarina Paris sang one of my favorite dance songs back in the day. Oops.

When he opened the door, he heard a startled shriek.

“It’s just me,” he called out before opening the door the rest of the way.

“I know!” Serena replied, but her voice was still high. “Turn around! Don’t look!”

But Paris was already looking. Serena’s back was to him, her long copper hair wet, wearing nothing but one of the hotel’s white towels.

She glanced over her shoulder, and her cerulean eyes grew wide. “I said turn around!” she practically hissed. Paris just laughed and strode further into the room.

“It’s nothing I haven’t seen before,” he said, setting the cup holder containing two McDonald’s cappuccinos on one of the bedside tables.

“I thought you weren’t coming back for another hour,” she said. She held a pair of folded jeans and a pink t-shirt in front of her chest as she headed for the bathroom. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been dilly-dallying out here in a towel.”

“I don’t mind.” Paris was still grinning. He beat her to the bathroom door, blocking it with his body. “Really.”

“Paris, come on. Move.” She dropped her clothing shield so that she could try to push him aside, but of course he didn’t budge.

“Come on,” he echoed. He caught her wrist in his hand. “You can’t expect me to just let you go in there and put clothes on.” Still holding her wrist, he rotated her until her back was pressed into the wall.

“This isn’t funny,” she insisted, her lower lip trembling slightly. She had such full, inviting pink lips, whether she realized it or not. “You know we can’t do this. What about Adam?”

Paris released her but slammed his hands against the wall on either side of her. He saw her jump. He leaned in even closer. “Stop being so fucking good,” he said, aware that it sounded like a growl. But he couldn’t help it. His voice was heavy with desire. As soon as he had seen her peach skin barely concealed by that cheap white towel, he had wanted her.

But Serena was trying to bury her face in her shoulder and wouldn’t meet his burning gaze. “Paris, don’t,” she pleaded. “Please don’t.”

Paris hesitated, but then lowered his arms. “I was only playing, Serena. What’s wrong?”

She faced him again as she felt his mind prod hers gently. “Not now, Paris! Don’t look into my thoughts now, please. You know I can’t shut you out.”

But he ignored her, knowing that that was the only way he was going to understand her reaction. He didn’t have to search long for the memory; it was right there on the surface, plaguing her mind.

A crowd tumbling out of a concert. Serena holding hands with some guy, struggling to keep up with him as he towed her through the masses of people but away from the parking lot. Her copper hair was shorter then, shoulder-length, and she was wearing a yellow t-shirt with a giant cat’s head on it.

Where are we going, Jack? she kept asking him. Let’s just go back to the car.

But now they had escaped the crowd, and he had taken her to the alley between two of the buildings, where the dumpsters were and the streetlights didn’t reach. She struggled feebly when he shoved her against one of the brick walls, her mind still cloudy from the alcohol. She said stop, kept saying it over and over again, but he didn’t…

Paris retracted his mind then, not needing to see anymore to know what Jack had done to her.

“How old were you?” he asked her quietly.

“Fifteen,” she said. “I had told him I was eighteen. I thought he was so cool, you know? I thought we were both so in love with each other. I mean, now I know it was just an infatuation and not real love. But I did trust him.

“I know you weren’t trying to hurt me, Paris,” she continued, even gently touching his brow with her hand. He almost flinched at the intimate caress, but he forced himself to be still for her. “But sometimes it’s like he still has this power over me, this power to make me afraid.”

Paris nodded. “But you know it doesn’t have to be like that, right? Hasn’t being with Adam shown you that even a little bit?”

A rose colored blush crept up her cheeks. “Adam and I haven’t…we kiss, and it’s really nice. But I’ve never let him go farther than that.”

“Serena, I can’t pretend to understand how difficult it must be to get over something like that, but you can’t let the memory of it –of Jack –rule your life,” Paris said. He moved in closer again, but more slowly this time, while brushing her hair away from her neck. “Sex isn’t supposed to be scary. It’s supposed to feel good.”

He softly kissed her ear and then continued a trail of kisses down her now exposed white neck. Her breathing quickened, but she didn’t protest or try to push him away. Sliding both of his hands around her slim waist, he pulled her close to him.

“Serena,” he said huskily before kissing those plump lips.

At first, he had wanted nothing more than to rip off that white towel and throw her onto the bed. But now a desperate need to show her how sensuous and beautiful sex could be overwhelmed him, and he forgot that he was supposed to be cold and uncaring.

He took a chance and ran his hands over the curves underneath her towel. She didn’t pull away from him, only let out a tiny gasp while she was still kissing him. Paris gathered her into his arms and carried her to the bed.

“Before we go any further,” Serena said as he laid her down, “I think you need to be more naked.”

He could feel himself smile in genuine anticipation, losing that sardonic edge he so carefully maintained. Rising from the bed, he unbuttoned his black dress shirt, even feeling slightly vulnerable as he watched her eager eyes drink him in.

Serena kneeled at the foot of the bed, running her hands along the muscles that rippled across his chest and torso. “You’re beautiful,” she breathed as she slid his shirt the rest of the way off. It fell to the floor.

“So are you.” He leaned over to kiss her again, and then pulled back so he could remove his black jeans. Serena retreated and stretched out on the bed without diverting her eyes.

“Do you have any idea how sexy everything you do is?” Paris groaned. He was completely naked now, and he saw her eyes drift to his hard member. “This is your fault,” he added playfully, glancing down and back up again. Serena giggled.

Copyright 2012 by S. L. Stacy

Well, here it goes…

It’s almost midnight after a pretty low-key Friday night. And instead of going to bed, I decided that I needed to start a blog where I could share my writings and ramblings about writing with the world (or at least those few that may be interested). Writing fiction is not my profession (although I hope it will be, some day), nor is it even what I’m currently studying. But no matter what else I’m doing in my life, I frequently get an idea for a story, a character, a conflict – and I get the overwhelming urge to write.

I have tried posting a young adult fiction book I wrote chapter by chapter on another blog, but I abandoned the task once I reached a chapter I felt needed heavy revision. I may try to post it again on here, but for now I may just post short stories or scenes here and there, raw without intense editing. (Because, let’s be honest, editing is NOT the fun part, although a necessary evil.)

My characters are usually teenagers or young adults, and my stories have sci-fi, fantasy and/or paranormal themes. If you enjoy these genres, I hope you will enjoy my blog! All comments and *constructive* criticism are welcome.

For now, here is a short piece that involves two characters from a series I’m envisioning. I’m also trying to experiment with different points of view and tenses (usually I stick to third person and past tense, which seems safe), so this one is first person, present tense. This week I’ve been listening to Adam Lambert’s new album, Trespassing, and the song “Chokehold” is definitely their theme song:

“I keep running away, running away, running away from you
But I can’t stand breaking the chains, breaking the chains, breaking the chains
It’s too good, cause I know the second you go
Want you to bring it on back, bring it on back, bring it on back to me
And you know I want your chokehold.”

I’m walking against the crowd pouring out of the high school because I forgot my trigonometry book when I hear someone call my name behind me.

“Ava!” he shouts again before I’m fully turned around, but of course I recognize his voice. He makes his way toward me, a lone punk shark in a sea of preppy minnows. He’s wearing a maroon tie and a black dress shirt that’s not tucked into his black jeans. “I need to talk to you,” he tells me once he catches up to me.

“I really wish you wouldn’t,” I reply curtly, turning on my heel and resuming my walk.

“What?” He sounds genuinely shocked. I don’t even hold the door open for him but he sneaks through behind me.

“Look, the dance was fun,” I say. He’s finally matched my determined stride. “But you didn’t really think this could turn into something, did you?”

For an instant I feel a guilty ache in my chest – my words are coming out colder than I had intended. But then I remind myself that Tyler doesn’t really like me; that he didn’t really want to take me to the Harvest Dance. Celeste used her freaky telepathy to compel him to take me. Because apparently that’s the only way I’m going to get a date to anything, ever.

We’ve reached my locker, and I busy myself with the combination lock, avoiding his piercing hazel eyes.

“I guess I did.” His answer startles me so much that I finally stop and look over at him. His black guyliner emphasizes the intensity and sincerity of his gaze. “I felt something between us. I thought you did, too.”

God, how far had Celeste’s influence gone? I wonder. Did she convince him that he was in love with me, too?

What I hate most is that, as I stand here plotting to hurt him, all I want to do is to brush that stupid lock of his black hair that’s fallen in front of his face. And I want to finish that kiss that got interrupted at the dance.

Instead, I take a deep breath and hold his gaze steadily. “I’m smart. I’m pretty, and I’m popular. How could I ever feel something for some emo kid in a loser punk band?”

My heart is beating so loudly in my chest I wonder if he can hear it. He’s glaring at me now, his jaw jutting out in anger, and if I didn’t know better I might think he was trying to hold back tears. It feels like an eternity before he finally speaks again.

“Fuck you,” he says and stomps away from me.

I turn back to my locker, blinking back tears myself. Why do I have to be such a bitch? But it was for his own good, I remind myself. He’ll realize you did him a favor when he comes out of the fog Celeste put him in.

Suddenly, I gasp when I feel someone grab me and spin me around, pinning me against the lockers.

Tyler’s face is inches away from mine.

“Just thought I’d show you what you were missing,” he whispers urgently before he kisses me.

When our lips meet, I have the fleeting thought that I hope the hall is still deserted, but then my mind goes blank, and my body goes limp and tingles as his hands move to my hips. He coaxes my lips apart and deepens the kiss. For a few moments, the tension deserts his body, too, and I think he’s losing himself in me.

I don’t know how long we’ve been kissing when Tyler pulls away. His pale face is stoic, the vulnerability I felt in his kiss gone.

“Yeah. That’s what I thought,” he says to me and stalks away again.

Copyright 2012 by S. L. Stacy