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Rachel-Vincent

Dear Author

REVIEW: My Soul to Lose by Rachel Vincent

Dear Ms. Vincent,

While it’s true that your Faythe Saunders werecat books don’t work well for me, I’ve been watching the soon-to-be-launched Harlequin Teen imprint with interest. It’s no secret that YA novels have been experiencing a sort of renaissance in recent years. The genre is large, diverse and continually growing, so I was interested in seeing what titles the largest romance publisher would bring us. The imprint doesn’t launch until August with your novel, My Soul to Take, serving as one of the lead titles (and Gena Showalter’s Intertwined to follow in September), but Harlequin gave us a sneak peek with your prequel novella.

It’s just another day at the mall for Kaylee Cavanaugh, who’s gone there with her best friend. Well, maybe not just another day. After all, they’re working on a plan to get revenge on Kaylee’s ex-boyfriend who unceremoniously dumped her and then proceeded to ask another girl to the dance without missing a beat. Unfortunately, things don’t go according to plan. Kaylee has always suffered from panic attacks and as so often happens in this sorts of stories, one overcomes her in the middle of the mall. Not quite what she had in mind.   To make matters worse, it’s an attack that’s bad enough to get her committed — not only did she scream her head off, she scratched her throat badly enough leave bloody marks behind.

Now Kaylee’s only goal is to get out of the psychiatric unit. To do that, however, she has to convince the doctors and nurses that she’s not crazy. And that becomes an uphill battle when she lets slip that before the onset of the attack, she saw a strange fog fill the department store and cling to another person. Hallucinations are one of these first things people link to mental illness, so this doesn’t bode well for Kaylee at all.

I’m pretty sure I finished this novella with a puzzled expression on my face. I’m positive of it.   I know I’ve had my differences with the Faythe Saunders books but one of the things I’ve never had a problem with is the voice. True, I found Faythe as a character off-putting, but I will never deny that her voice wasn’t clear and strong. And Faythe’s voice has always read as young to me, so I thought it a foregone conclusion that it’d translate well to a young adult audience. I didn’t find that to be the case here. To be honest, I found it merely functional and bland.   I’m not sure if it’s the format.   We’ve discussed in the past here at Dear Author how writing novels is not the same as writing shorter fiction, so maybe Kaylee’s voice just wasn’t able to come through at this length.

Another thing that led to my puzzlement was the anticlimactic ending. Kaylee gets committed. Kaylee tries to get out. And then she does. (I won’t put hide that last sentence under spoiler code because I’m sure the general outcome won’t surprise anyone, especially since Kaylee is the narrator of My Soul to Take, which comes out next month.) The only problem is I wouldn’t necessarily say the results were because of any action Kaylee herself took. The novella was very one-note, almost simply a recitation of plot points, from one to the next. I didn’t really get any sense of danger or suspense.

I realize part of that is because this novella serves as a teaser to its related series but in many ways, it reads a lot like an unnecessary prologue. It didn’t really add anything. And the ending leaves me distinctly dissatisfied.

This isn’t to say this format can’t work but based on past experiences, I believe it works best if the story is either a standalone or related to an existing series. If it’s meant as a lead-in, then there needs to be some closure. The lack of closure here is probably due to Kaylee searching out the reason for her uncontrolled panic attacks in My Soul to Take but even so, I would have liked to have been left with the sense that I’d read a complete story, rather than an incomplete one.

And finally, I find it very hard to believe no one made the connection between Kaylee’s uncontrolled screaming and the fact that every time the panic attacks come, she’s filled with a sense of dread that someone’s going to die. I don’t mean that in the sense that someone would actually come out and say, “Well, obviously, you’re a banshee!” That’s not really believable either. But I can’t believe someone wouldn’t make a snarky comment — these are teenagers after all — that Kaylee screams like a banshee. I know I would have.   C-

My regards,
Jia

This book can be purchased in ebook format from Sony or other etailers.

REVIEW: Rogue by Rachel Vincent

REVIEW: Rogue by Rachel Vincent

Dear Ms. Vincent,

RogueLike Jane, I found myself disappointed by your debut, Stray. I think my expectations had been raised so high by the pre-publication buzz that there was no possible way the actual product could have met them. That’s a danger I sometimes encounter with the internet, which offers up so much information about books well before they ever hit the bookstores. But while I agree with most of Jane’s criticisms, I wanted to give your werecat series another chance. From past experience, I know it can take a couple books for an author to hit her stride and when it comes to paranormal series, often times the writer simply needs space to develop the world.

Rogue picks up where Stray left off. Faythe Saunders has returned to the suffocating environment of her werecat Pride, taking up the responsibility of being the next generation’s mother as well as beginning her training as the first female enforcer from a North American Pride. Complications arise when strays start turning up dead. When they discover there’s a connection between the dead strays and a series of murders in which the victims are strippers, the Pride’s investigation leads them onto the trail of a foreign tabby (female werecat). And matters soon take a turn for the worse when Faythe starts receiving threatening phone calls from her ex-boyfriend Andrew, who may or may not be involved.

One thing I noticed immediately about Rogue was that it was over 200 pages shorter than its predecessor. Since I felt the previous book was far too long for its content, the shorter length helped ease my initial doubts. I found the story tighter and the plotting more even, and the middle section did not drag painfully like it did in Stray.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take into account my other main criticism of the first book and it is here that I’ve hit the wall. And I simply don’t know if I can scale over it. What is this roadblock? The main character, Faythe.

I disliked Faythe in Stray and very little in Rogue convinced me to change my mind. Not only did I find her as selfish as she was in the first book, I think she actually became dumber. There were instances in the book where I honestly wondered what was wrong with her. When her ex-boyfriend starts leaving threatening voicemails, does she tell anyone? No, because that would require telling them she never completed the actual break up that would have officially made them exes in the first place. I might have been able to buy this lapse in judgment had she not gone through the events chronicled in the first book. I’d hoped she’d learned from her mistakes but it seems she’s a bit slower in that department than I’d prefer in my main characters.   (For that matter, did we ever find out what happened to her friend from college?   The one whose cell phone Andrew was calling from?   Again, another big clue that something was wrong.)

While I do understand that this series is meant to track Faythe’s evolution from an immature brat to — what I hope will be — a responsible adult but as a reader, I need something more to go on in the beginning, something that will encourage me to keep reading. I’m certain other readers can tolerate these levels of immaturity, selfishness, and stupidity in a main character, but I can’t. Faythe’s doesn’t make me want to cheer her on throughout her journey. If anything, she elicits a “Serves you right!” when she does something wrong and things blow up in her face. That’s not the sort of reading experience I typically seek out.

Even though I felt the plot was straightforward and rather predictable overall, one thing that did surprise me was how Andrew’s character was demonized. I couldn’t help but feel this was a little cliché. Much like the other men in her life, Faythe treated Andrew poorly. She left him without explanation. She never ended things with him completely. She hooked up with Marc without even a second thought about her all-human boyfriend. None of these things portray Faythe in a sympathetic light. So when we’re greeted with an Andrew that’s become a psychopath and an angry stalker, I can only draw the conclusion that this is a poor attempt to justify her shoddy treatment of him. “Look how unstable and easily manipulated he really is! Obviously he was never The One for Faythe!” I am not fooled.

Yes, I also understand that Andrew’s present circumstances were another illustration of Faythe’s reckless propensity to make mistakes endangering everyone around her. But all that does is make me sympathize with her even less. I figured out what was going to happen to Andrew at the end of Stray. That it took Faythe half of Rogue to put the pieces together did little to alter my less-than-favorable opinion of her intelligence.

I can’t speak for other readers but if a book features an unsympathetic character, I need to see some sign of that character paying for her mistakes. If all I see is that character’s bad behavior being reinforced and enabled by those around her, I have no reason to keep reading. Yes, Faythe makes mistakes. And yes, she’s had to face the consequences. But not once, in this book or the one before it, have I ever felt that those consequences were permanent, lasting, or even made a dent in that extraordinarily hard head of hers. She’s still loved. She’s still protected. And even though it looks like she’ll finally face the consequences of her actions in the next book, I still have no doubt everything will work out in the end at no loss to her.

But if I’m wrong, I hope someone will let me know. I’ve said before that my curiosity will be the death of me and if I’m honest, I have this perverse desire to know what happens next. I just don’t think I can endure more of Faythe to find out. D

My regards,

Jia

This book can be purchased in mass market or ebook format.