Summer Reading

I've been using my three weeks in America to do some guilt-free, research-free summer reading. Have got through 'Incubus', 'Haunting Violet' and 'Starcrossed' so far. The middle one was lovely, didn't blow me away or alienate me, and I'd read more in the series (if one follows, which I hope it does.) As for the other two, I'll put in my Amazon Vine reviews:

'Incubus' by Carol Goodman ***

I started reading with high hopes, and indeed this book did start in a promising way. New-girl-in-town-buys-creepy-old-house isn't the most original premise, but then again it's one that works when it's done well. I was intrigued by the house, the dark woods, the Stepford-esque nature of the faculty of the small college setting. I was even willing to buy it when the eponymous incubus showed up on the scene (though the 'love' scenes were somewhat cringeworthy.) Unfortunately, after that everything became depressingly predictable. The ending's big reveal was obvious miles in advance, as was its slightly smaller big reveal. Entertaining enough for a beach book, but not a series I'll be following further.

 

'Starcrossed' by Josephine Angelini ****

I was somewhat disappointed, given the Greek Gods premise, to find this book very quickly falling into the Twilight formula. Actually, it's more obviously derivative than anything else I've read in this genre. There's the secluded, Gothic setting; the big, mysterious, wealthy family of beautiful people new to the area; the anti-chemistry between the male & female leads which is so clearly begging to be overturned. Even smalle details are annoyingly familiar: there's a creepy prophetic sister, a big tough lug of a brother, a smaller, more wirey brother, a stunning sister all of the schoolboys fall for. If it weren't for the leading lady, in fact, this would be two to three-star territory.

Helen, however, easily hauls the story up another two stars. Anyone who follows my reviews of YA supernatural romances will know that one of my huge grievances with the genre as a whole is that so many of the heroines are so revoltingly passive. Having spent a lot of my own YA years riveted to Buffy, I just can't abide a leading girl who sits around waiting for someone else to save her, to fight for her, to define her secret talents or otherwise control her life. Or, for that matter, a hero who would want to be with a girl like that. (Isn't a big part of the Buffy/Angel frisson the fact that she can kill him as easily as he can kill her?)

Helen isn't a Buffy - she's warmer, softer, shyer - but she's equally likeable. [Minor spoiler alert.] I love the fact that her first encounter with Lucas involves her trying to throttle him, and nearly succeeding. I also love the fact that even when it comes down to him explaining things and helping her learn about her powers, she can still kick his ass - and everyone else's. And all of this sporting the face of the most beautiful woman ever to have lived.

But it's not just her fighting prowess that impressed me. I also love her humility, her humanity, the way that she cares about her family and friends and never questions putting herself on the line for them. And that even when she inevitably falls in love, she keeps her head screwed on, doesn't forget about everyone else in her life, doesn't waft away into sugary fantasies. I think it's actually very difficult to write a heroine in this genre who remains sympathetic despite being beautiful, having the perfect boyfriend, and superpowers to boot. Angelini succeeds. I'd read book two...

By sarah on 29 July 2011 |