Saturday, 13 April 2013

Blue Bloods Series

Level: Older Teen
Genre: Fantasy > Urban Fantasy > Vampire
Reviewed by: Nic Echo

About the Series:
Vampires are among us. They are classy. They are beautiful. They are society's elite. The Blue Bloods series starts off pretty lightly; it's all about fashion, social status, romance, and little else. Even early on, however, we learn that the vampires are really fallen angels that cycle through different lifetimes, hoping for forgiveness so that they may return to Heaven. We also learn of the silver blood angels or vampires that feed off the blue bloods and trap the blue bloods' souls in the silver blood's form. Later on, things become much more complicated in the series, both in the war between the silver and blue bloods and in the romance department. What was once all social status and parties has now becomes battles, quests, and treachery. Then, there is all the complexities of the romance in the series. Girl like Popular Boy. Friend of Girl likes Girl. Popular Girl dislikes Girl since Popular Boy also likes Girl, but Popular Boy and Popular Girl have a bond, and breaking that could be hazardous, and that's just the tip of the romanceberg.  

Rating: 6/10
My thoughts on this series were certainly all over the place. The bits that I liked, I tended to love and kept me turning the pages. On the other hand, the things I disliked, I loathed.  My eyes were rolling, and some times I even wanted to throw the book. Still, I will admit that the series was better than I originally expected. It was unique and although it was romance heavy as expected, I didn't feel too bogged down from it until later. De la Cruz managed a good balance between the story plot and the romance plot. The other things I enjoyed about the Blue Bloods series was that you got to see the characters grow throughout. Melissa de la Cruz also did an excellent job at creating plot twists and keeping you on the edge of your seat. I think the only time I didn't really feel this was in Gates of Paradise and even Lost in Time since nearly anyone could figure out how the series would end (happily ever after) so it removed any tension. Personally, I am not a fan of happily ever after, especially in urban fantasy. However, I realise a good amount of people do want that happy ending where all the main characters live and end up happily paired off. I'll admit that this type of ending knocked down my enjoyment of the series slightly, but not only was it expected but I was enjoying the storyline enough that I didn't care. As I said, it only really had a major impact in the last two books, because it removed most of the tension.

Speaking of knocking down enjoyment, another minor dislike I had with the series was all the naming of the characters -- well, the angelic names. Melissa de la Cruz constantly put in well known angelic names (and even some well known names for the wolves). Some examples would be Michael, Gabriel(le), Azrael, Leviathan, Beelzebub, Fenrir, and Romulus. My problem with this is they had little or nothing to do with the mythos surrounding the name. We get no biblical type references to the angels and the blue bloods personality didn't really reflect the mythos either. For example, Azrael is the angel of death, but I felt that any name could have been used in place of Azrael, and the story wouldn't have changed. Then, there are the wolves,  Fenrir and Romulus. I can't say much on the latter since he was mainly in Wolf Pact, which I have not read yet, so all I know was that he was an evil tyrant. Fenrir, however, ugh! In the Blue Bloods series, Fenrir is a giant supposed to be the salvation of the wolves. In Norse mythos, Fenrir is a giant wolf that is supposed to swallow the sun and end the world. Yeah, I have no idea how Melissa de la Cruz made the connection between the end of the world and salvation. Still the Blue Bloods story was interesting enough for me to let this peeve pass though it still received a small shudder every time I read the names.

Honestly though, I found most of the series to be enjoyable. Sure the series was the equivalent to junk food, but it was a tasty read. It was fun to see de la Cruz mix her mythos with our human history; it was entertaining to see the complications of the romance and past lives, and it was thrilling to see the silver bloods spread their treachery. However, the end of the series nearly killed all of that for me. What could have been a highly enjoyable and highly recommended series dropped down to merely okay because of the last two books (okay, Gates of Paradise really). In the beginning of the series, the villains had reasons to be evil. The reasons weren't detailed, but we had reasons: power, pride, or simple selfishness. Later on, we get villains doing evil things, because ... evil. I'm sorry, but that is simply frustrating and boring. Plus, talk about lazy writing. I usually love the villains in novels, but the ones here ended up just singing, "Death, death, devil, devil, evil, evil song." Seriously, even a simple reason is better than "because he's evil." Continuing with the bad writing, there was so much telling in this series! Well, the earlier books had some showing, but Gates of Paradise was chock full of us being told how the characters were instead of getting to see them act that way. Still if the plot had been interesting enough, I could have forgiven this flaw. However, without the urge to constantly turn the page, without the plot twists and unknown paths, Melissa's writing falls flat. Gates of Paradise and Lost in Time are both guilty of fixing major problems, many of which had been built up through multiple books, in one sentence. Can we say disappointment?

Overall, the Blue Bloods series wasn't bad. In fact, most of it was highly entertaining throughout most of the series. It isn't incredibly well written, but a book doesn't have to be Hemingway to be enjoyable. Blue Bloods had a steady mix of action and romance (though I would still mainly suggest this series to the female gender). The biggest downfall is the end of the series. The ending felt rushed, and Melissa's flaws in writing became more obvious. Then again, the overall arc is still enjoyable, and the last book manages to tie up all the loose ends, but as I have said, it's pretty disappointing for  various reasons so you may want to keep that in mind before becoming invested in the series.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Gates of Paradise

Level: Older Teen
Genre: Fantasy > Urban Fantasy > Vampire
Obtained: Borrowed from the library
Reviewed by: Nic Echo

Like most of the Blue Bloods covers, this one is beautiful and geared toward the right audience. Once again, I love the city silhouette and the fonts used for the title. The cover is also great for Schuyler and Jack. Obviously, there is the romantic aspect, but I really like how Jack isn't touching her since Gates of Paradise has them separate throughout most of the book. Plus, it's just a beautiful photograph, very nicely cropped and full of emotion.

About the Book:
It is the last book of the Blue Bloods series, and our group of protagonists are doing their damnedest not to allow Lucifer access to the Gate of Promise, which leads to Heaven. Schuyler, Oliver, and Kingsley are trying to figure out how to unlock the gate so that the blue bloods can go back to Heaven. Bliss now has the hellhounds/wolves (I had trouble figuring out whether the hellhounds and the wolves were different or not). She and Lawson both must free the other wolves from Hell as well as find the remaining vampires to help them fight for Paradise. Finally, we have Jack and Mimi, who are working for Lucifer. Well, they want Lucifer to believe they are on his side, which is limiting what they can do to help the angels of light.

Rating: 4/10
If I had to choose one word for this book it would be disappointed. I felt so let down from Gates of Paradise that I was in a rage for several hours after I had finished the novel. Although I had issues with nearly every book of the Blue Bloods series, I still found myself pushing them aside because the series was so enjoyable. It was far from being the best series ever written, but it was fun, unique, and managed to pull you in, and I was itching to see how it would end.

So what made this book so disappointing for me? Well, to start off: the romance. Now, anyone who has read the series is probably wondering why I stuck with this series for so long if I had issues with the romance. I'll admit that I nearly always found the romance throughout the series cheesy (and I'm even a romantic), but for the most part, the characters' primary thoughts were about the ongoing battle between the blue bloods and the silver bloods. I didn't get that from this book. Sure it said that love and romance wasn't their primary focus, but that was all they seemed to think about for 80% of the book. Schuyler was constantly lamenting about Jack, Mimi was repeatedly angsting about Kingsley, and then Bliss was always worrying about how Lawson felt about her. Even the story that focused on one of Gabrielle's past lives revolved around love (though this made more sense than other protagonists'). Now, I am in no way saying that the romance should be null and void, but I came into this book expecting loads of scheming, battles, and plot twists along with the romance, much like the earlier books. This is supposed to be the end, the big battle, and I mostly get romance drama.

Speaking of the big battle, what a let down. Before I get into it though, be warned there will be 

 So we have books upon books leading up to this battle. It's going to be huge! It's going to be epic! It's going to be ... wait, what just happened? All throughout the battle, we have major occurrences happening in a single sentence. The demon, Leviathan is slayed in one statement, and we don't even get to know who. Okay, Leviathan hasn't been a major player for a while now so I guess that could slide, but then Mimi gets wounded. The issue I had was that it came out of nowhere. Seriously, I was reading about Mimi fighting and a sentence later, she is talking about a wound. I was extremely confused since we didn't get to see her get stabbed or slashed. I even went back, because I had figured I had read over something, but that wasn't the case. It was simply that abrupt, and this was only one of many. The other major abrupt  jump involved Schuyler. She is no where near Lucifer when suddenly she has Michael's sword to his throat. If that wasn't bad enough, remember this is Lucifer. This is the big bad. We don't get to see a fight between Lucifer and Schuyler. There's no build up. It's as if Lucifer randomly showed up on the set, and they started  shooting a scene for a movie. He simply has no presence before this so even though we have our main protagonist's sword to THE villain's throat, I could care less. Bad bad writing!

Those were the two major bits in the book that led to my disappointment. However, there are still some other issues I had with Gates of Paradise. They weren't disappointing, but they certainly had a negative impact. The first of these is something pretty simple: telling instead of showing. Although this has been an issue in past books, it wasn't nearly as prominent as it is in Gates of Paradise. The other Blue Bloods books had a mix of showing and telling; Gates of Paradise was all tell and no show.

Another issue I had involved Bliss. Melissa de la Cruz wrote another book, called Wolf Pact, that followed Bliss and her search for the hellhounds. It was said that Wolf Pact was a side series to the Blue Blood series. A side series or book implies that will have little to no impact on the main series. Because of this, I had planned on reading Wolf Pact later. Wold Pact should not be called a side series. Although it doesn't follow any blue bloods, it does follow Bliss, who was a blue blood at one time. The biggest reason it shouldn't be called a side series, however, is because it has a huge impact on the Blue Bloods storyline and Bliss' character. Sure I was able to figure out what was going on in Gates of Paradise even without reading Wolf Pact, but it felt like I had skipped an entire book in the Blue Bloods series. When reading Gates of Paradise, I was suddenly given all these new characters out of nowhere, and they obviously had a history together. There were constant references made to Wolf Pact, making me feel that I wasn't getting the entire story when reading Gates of Paradise and even a little confused at times.

The last thing I didn't like was the happily ever after type ending. Everyone ended up with the person they loved. I can't say it was unexpected, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. It just felt a little too unrealistic to me (even for a book about fallen angels/vampires). Still I understand that there is a good chunk of people who want that happily ever after, and you guys deserve those type of books. Personally though, it's not for me.

So you can see that I had lots of issues with this book, but that doesn't mean it was all bad. Melissa de la Cruz did make sure to tie up all the loose ends, and I really liked what she did with Oliver at the end. It was a bit of a deus ex machina twist, but it was still enjoyable to read. The characters also grew throughout the series, which I am always glad to see. Sadly, I cannot think of a lot of things I enjoyed in this book alone.

This wasn't a horrible book, but it certainly was a major disappointment. If you reading the story mostly for the romance, then you may enjoy it more. Easily, the worst bit was the climax. De la Cruz jumped around way too often, causing much confusion and little build-up. I have to say it felt very rushed and could have been much better. Gates of Paradise nearly ruined the entire series for me. It still might have. My brain hasn't decided yet. I still would say read it if you have read the rest of the series, but I wouldn't recommend buying it except maybe to finish your collection, and even then, I would suggest getting it used it at least in paperback. The downfall is that Gates of Paradise has caused me to not want to recommend the Blue Bloods series to as many readers. That's how much of a let down this was for me.

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