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REVIEW: Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

Dear Ms. Frost:

Book CoverThe back of your book reads “If Buffy and Angel had a daughter, she’d be just like Cat Crawfield.” What wasn’t included was that Buffy’s daughter would then end up dating and falling in love with Spike, her mother’s boyfriend.

Cat Crawfield is a half vampire/half human woman. She was created violently when her mother went out on date with a vampire and was raped (this is actually not what I remember about the Buffy/Angel pairing but admittedly I have not watched many episodes). Spurred on by her mother’s hate, Cat hunts vampires. Because of her part vampire blood, she has a few special skills that enable her to have killed a good number of them by the time she turns 22.

Unfortunately, being a self trained vampire killer has its drawbacks and that is apparent when she runs into Bones, a master vampire, and he snuffs out right away that she isn’t the easy lay she pretends to be. He initially plans to kill her because he too is a vampire hunter. Instead, she convinces him that she’s not a danger to him and he proposes an alliance. He’ll let her live and in return she agrees to train to become a killing machine.

Cat is smart mouthed but not too smart mouthed and Bones has a wicked sense of humor.

“Are you telling me bloody caramel apples and books taught you how to kill vampries? Is that what you’re saying?” He started to pace in short, rapid lengths. “It’s a damn good thing most of the recent generations are nearly illiterate or we’d all be in serious trouble. Blimey.”

Their interaction was the best part of the book. The problem is I found Cat to be very youthful in her narratives. “I hope you choke on my blood, you jerk” and “Kill me already, you pathetic suck-neck!” are examples of her dialogue. It sounded very young adult, or at least the heroine sounded young. She could have easily passed for a teenager rather than a 22 year old. The youthful tone of the book combined with the explicit sex scenes had me squirming uncomfortably in my chair and not in a good way.

I will not be surprised if nearly every review of this book mentions the Buffy connection because it certainly seemed to be a strong influence on the story and the characters. The strongest similarity for me, wasn’t the heroine, but the hero. He was described as having “hair . . . nearly white under the intermittent lighting . . . his skin was unlined. . . . His cheekbones could have been chiseled from marble, and that flawless diamonds-and-cream skin gleamed from under his shirt collar.” He was also British and spoke with a British dialect: “blimey”, “bloody hell”, “luv”, “fancied.”

The good thing is that this book does not read like a debut novel. The prose is smooth and polished. There is good banter. The largest problem I had with the book beyond the mismatched tones was that it tried too hard to be urban fantasy romance. I.e., the relationship between Bones and Cat would have been more authentic if it were a mentor/mentee relationship rather than the sexual one that was written. The fight scenes, the training scenes and the suspense thread of the bad vampire cadre that Bones and Cat are chasing were all interesting. If this had been an urban fantasy without the romance between Bones and Cat, I would have liked it much more.

I never really understood what Bones saw in Cat other than this nice looking vampire killer. I never understood what Cat saw in Bones given that she supposedly spent all of her formative years believing that vampires were monsters. Thus, her easy capitulation into his bed and her near immediate attraction was completely unbelievable.

The ending of the book was also inconsistent when the government official thread that the back cover copy hints is included. It seemed to have nothing to do with the main plot/suspense storyline and appeared included only to interest readers in book 2, rather than addressing the many outstanding issues in this book, such as developing the character arc of Cat. While the cliffhanger ending to the relationship is not one that will be palatable to some romance readers, it was not the source for dissatisfaction for me. I would have been more interested in the future of the couple if I had really bought into their pairing. Unfortunately, I felt that Cat was too immature and had too many issues to really be able to love a master vampire. C

Best,

Jane Litte

This book can be purchased in mass market and ebook format on October 30, 2007.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

29 Comments

  1. Barbara B.
    Oct 27, 2007 @ 08:08:16

    Again with the Buffy? I guess this works for a lot of people but I sure as hell don’t want to read a book derivative of a TV show. Is there anything original about urban fiction?

  2. kardis
    Oct 27, 2007 @ 08:42:47

    I think I would have definitely picked this book up based on the cover, it’s pretty nice! As for the rest, no one has ever done Buffy better than Joss though many, many books have tried (for some reason). I’m with Barbara B. and I think I’ll pass on this one.

  3. Barbara B.
    Oct 27, 2007 @ 08:59:29

    Sorry. That should be urban fantasy. Still boring though.

  4. Nicole
    Oct 27, 2007 @ 09:10:01

    I often wonder if romance in some of these urban fantasy romances would be better off developed in books further along in the series, once the characters have matured and gained some respect for each other (the ones where one character starts out hating the idea of the other).

    I do think I’ll try to pick this one up, though.

  5. Jill Myles
    Oct 27, 2007 @ 09:36:36

    Actually, I’m not a Buffy fan (saw one episode, didn’t need to see more) and I find that I can still enjoy a great deal of urban fantasy. Barbara B – have you read Kelley Armstrong? If not, I’d recommend her highly – I didn’t get any of the ‘hawt young woman with omg powerz’ that I suspect is what you are talking about when you mention the genre.

    I’d also like to suggest Ilona Andrews – her heroine Kate is a bit of a ball-buster, the romance is only hinted at, and her storyline and plot is amazing. Go read.

    As for HALFWAY, I’m listening to the mixed reviews with interest, but I’m still going to pick it up and see how it grabs me. Since I am not a Buffy fan, I’m also curious to see if the Buffy-comparison will bother me or if I won’t see it at all.

  6. Barbara B.
    Oct 27, 2007 @ 10:45:07

    Jill Myles said-
    “Barbara B – have you read Kelley Armstrong? If not, I'd recommend her highly – I didn't get any of the ‘hawt young woman with omg powerz' that I suspect is what you are talking about when you mention the genre.”

    No. I haven’t read Kelley Armstrong. I think I own some of her books, though.

    You’re exactly right. It is the ‘hawt young woman with omg powerz' that I’m so very tired of. I wasn’t a Buffy fan either, so all the books derived from the Buffy phenom don’t interest me. Actually I don’t want to read any book based on popular culture references (TV, movies, comic books) or stories that have already been written. Enough already. I just can’t take any more recycled stories. I’m done with that.
    I’m constantly wondering what kind of creative satisfaction can a writer gain from telling a story that’s been told scores of times before.

    I like your suggestion of Ilona Andrews. I love a ball-buster heroine. Can’t get enough of them so I’ll have to check Andrews out. It’s a plus that romance is not a big part of the story. I love romance but I don’t particularly need it to be an element of every book I read.

    Thanks for the recs.

  7. LesleyW
    Oct 27, 2007 @ 11:20:10

    Having read the excerpt on Jeaniene Frost’s site I’m really looking forward to this. So I’ll see what I think once my copy arrives.

    I do second the recommendations for Ilona Andrews and Kelley Armstrong.

  8. Ann Aguirre
    Oct 27, 2007 @ 11:21:37

    Nicole said: “I often wonder if romance in some of these urban fantasy romances would be better off developed in books further along in the series, once the characters have matured and gained some respect for each other.”

    I haven’t read Ms. Frost’s book so I can’t comment on that specifically, but I did want to address what Nicole said above. I went easy with the romance arc in book one of my urban fantasy for exactly that reason. With a six book arc, I have time to take it slow.

  9. Jan
    Oct 27, 2007 @ 14:26:27

    This sounds almost like it’s Buffy fan fiction (albeit well-written Buffy fan fiction). I’d bet lots of teenage girls have written this plot over on fanfiction.net, starring themselves as Cat of course, possibly even using that name LOL because Cat is a favorite name for fan fiction Mary Sues.

  10. [email protected]
    Oct 27, 2007 @ 14:45:50

    I liked it. :)

    It marked a kind of resurgence in reading for me. Most books for me are DNF. After having a dry run for a few months, I picked that one up and finished it in three hours. It left me with that slightly giddy feeling of having read a good book.

    I see what Jane is saying about the unlikely romance and youth of the heroine, but I still liked it a lot. I guess it didn’t matter as much to me.

    P.S. Jill, omg, bff, tnx, iou!

  11. Ann Bruce
    Oct 27, 2007 @ 15:58:17

    I didn’t like reading about teenagers or adults acting like teenagers when I was a teenager, so this is going to be a pass.

    Cat Crawfield is a half vampire/half human woman. She was created violently when her mother went out on date with a vampire and was raped

    Actually, this sounds more like Blade to me…except it Blade has better one-liners.

    If Buffy and Angel had a daughter, she'd be just like Cat Crawfield.

    Why is it always Buffy and Angel? Why not Buffy and Spike? Honestly, I always preferred Spike the Bloody (a nickname for his bloody awful poetry). Even when he was supposedly evil, he was entertaining. Angel’s doom-and-gloom attitude got boring fast. Spike would keep you laughing when you get old and viagra doesn’t cut it anymore.

    And I strongly second the recommendation for Kelley Armstrong. Right now, I think she’s one of two paranormal author I still read because her H/H don’t make me roll my eyes or cringe.

  12. Keishon
    Oct 27, 2007 @ 17:16:13

    I saw this book at the bookstore today, looking closely at the cover, the model looks like Renée Zellweger to me. Like everything else that is labeled paranormal, it’s a pass. Not interested.

  13. K. Z. Snow
    Oct 27, 2007 @ 20:03:39

    I am SOOOOO sick of the Buffy trip. Is literary imagination dying, or what?

  14. Jeaniene Frost
    Oct 28, 2007 @ 08:46:22

    Hi Jane,

    Thank you for taking the time to read and review HALFWAY TO THE GRAVE. Sorry it wasn’t more your cup of tea, but I appreciate your comments and insight.

    Thankfully, only the ARC had the description of “If Buffy and Angel had a daughter, she'd be just like Cat Crawfield.” It’s not on the back on the finished product, and it’s not how I see my heroine. I *was* a Buffy fan, but Cat is not based on Buffy, nor is my hero based on Spike (I was a Billy Idol fan long before I was a Spike fan, so the blond hair and English accent are more inspired by Billy Idol than Spike. Yes, I realize I’m dating myself with this admittance :) ) As far as vampires? Loved ‘em since I was a child, so when I wrote my first book, it had to have my favorite creature in it.

    Again, Jane, thank you for reviewing my novel. As always, I look forward to seeing what’s new on Dear Author, and as a debut novelist, it’s a thrill to see my book here, even if it didn’t please as much as I would have hoped.

  15. sandy l
    Oct 29, 2007 @ 07:44:41

    In an interview on the “I should be writing” podcast, Kim Harrison recommends Ms. Frost’s book among a couple of others. She also admits in the interview that there are too many paranormals on the market. It was an interesting interview.

    There are too many paranormals on the market. It is very hard to wade through them and find the ones that appeal to me.

  16. Jeaniene Frost
    Oct 29, 2007 @ 09:31:31

    Sandy I, do you have a link for that? Because I am a HUGE Kim Harrison fan, and I hadn’t known that she’d read my book. I might just faint to hear that she recommends it. If you have more details on where this is, as soon as I regain consciousness, I’d love to look it up! :)

  17. Nawal
    Nov 06, 2007 @ 13:36:10

    oh my god! Halfway to the grave was amazing..and i mean amazing! i love vampires and i no it sounds dumb but ive always wish i was one! and this book was something i have never read before! amazing

  18. BETH
    Nov 09, 2007 @ 15:17:18

    i LOVE YOUR BOOK. Halfway to the grave is one of my favorites. Im 15 and i loved the writting. I cant wait to read the rest of the Night Huntress novels.♥

  19. BETH
    Nov 09, 2007 @ 15:18:35

    i really do. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  20. Nawal
    Nov 12, 2007 @ 16:25:36

    I can’t wait to read all of your vampire books!!!! Halfway to the grave was my FAVORITE book in the world..lots of “sex” lol but amazing so compassionate!!!

  21. J. Tassinaro
    Nov 13, 2007 @ 13:13:15

    Loved it! Can’t wait for next installment.

  22. Penny
    Nov 16, 2007 @ 23:26:38

    I loved this book so much that I was disappointed to see that it got such a poor review here. I use this site more as a “hmm, what did they think?” more than a gauge of whether I should buy something.

    I have yet to see any Buffy episodes, so that comparison doesn’t bother me in the least. I do agree that there are tons of plain romance novels masquerading as paranormals simply by putting a vampire or other supernatural being in one or both lead roles, with resulting poor quality. I’ve read a good few of them this year it would seem, but I thought this was an absolute standout. I gave it a 5-star review on my blog and am hawking it to all my friends.

    I did not find Cat to be particularly immature or rather I could see tremendous growth in her character over the course of the book, probably mostly attributable, in my mind, *to* her relationship with Bones. I disagree that the romance angle between them was contrived or distracting. To the contrary, I fell for it hook, line and sinker — loved the two of them together.

    If Jeaniene is still reading here, kudos! I absolutely adored this book and am waiting impatiently for the next one (and hoping to goodness that Bones is not going to be absent entirely or significantly from it). Also, if you are reading, I do have some questions. Will we find out more about the biology of how Cat came to be? If Bones is correct and her vampire father was still using residual human sperm that hadn’t yet flushed out of his system, then how was he able to pass on vampire genetic material to his child? I found myself puzzling over that, which seems rather fundamental to the overall premise.

  23. Nawal
    Nov 19, 2007 @ 22:30:50

    i wondered if u had a second book after halfway to the grave? could anyone tell me

  24. Tracy C.
    Dec 15, 2007 @ 21:04:15

    I LOVED THIS BOOK, it was fast paced, and fun. Cat and Bones had heat and sparks and they were both likable. I for one can’t wait for book 2 to come out in Feb. 2008. I think Frost has a nice long career ahead of her if she keeps writing books like this one! If the next one is as good or better, I will keep buying her books!!

  25. Nawal
    Jan 22, 2008 @ 18:43:35

    question!? after halfway to the grave is frost next?? or is that another book

  26. Kris
    Apr 15, 2008 @ 13:48:35

    I loved this book. I agree that Cat's dialogue did make me roll my eyes in the beginning. I found myself saying, “Oh no, this is going to be a teeny bopper book”, but I was delightfully mistaken. Cat progresses tremendously from the naïve sheltered girl, to a seductive woman. I am waiting very impatiently for the sequel. I have to say, I am absolutely in love with Bones. He is more of the reason I loved the book than Cat. It really hit me hard that she left him in the end. I really hope to see that the romance is rekindled and that we see them grow together as both a couple and in their particular line of business.

  27. ashley b.
    Mar 07, 2009 @ 17:35:07

    When I read Halfway to the Grave I melted. The intensity of it is overwhelming. And even though it’s a book it’s like I can see them in my mind. from what I read Bones is HOT! Cat is very beautiful, especially on the cover of of the second book (One foot in the Grave.) When I first started reading the book I thought bones was his real name but when I read that his name was Crispin I was shocked well not exactly shocked but ….. well surprised really?but who thinks that there will be a third book? because that way me and maybe others will not have to settle with twilight for the safety net on reading?

  28. Paige
    Mar 10, 2010 @ 20:01:10

    Great stuff. dearauthor.com is my favorite siet.

  29. Sara e
    Apr 18, 2011 @ 14:21:14

    The books have nothing to do with Buffy and i wasn’t reminded of that wretched series when i read it.In fact it’s the vampire series I’ve read so far and I highly recommend it along with the other books in the series the chemistry between C&B is combustible!

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