Friday, October 12, 2007

STRAY by Rachel Vincent

It's been a while since I read this book, so I hope I can keep everything straight. (g)

Brief Synopsis: Faythe Sanders isn't your normal coed. She's a werecat desperately trying to distance herself from what she really is. But when someone begins targeting Tabbies (unwed females, of which there are only 8 in all of the U.S.), she is rushed home and back into the protection of her family. There, she must face the life she's tried so hard to leave behind -- the adopted stray, Marc, to whom she was once engaged... Jace, one of her father's pack protectors for which she shares a mutual attraction... but most importantly, the responsibility of living up to who and what she is within the ranks of her pack. But these problems pale in comparison to the danger of her being kidnapped by the Stray on the loose...

Dunt dun dun.

Okay, I think this book was pretty dang entertaining. I liked the concept a great deal. I think Vincent has a very fresh voice--not to mention some serious chops when it comes to turning a phrase and coming up with snappy dialogue and descriptions.

I've thought long and hard about this review, and whether or not I liked the book in the end. I'm not sure I have an answer.

There are some things I really liked. The concept, the dialogue, her use of's all great. But then, there are some things that I just didn't like.

Without giving too much away, this book has what I call the "Bad Girls" syndrome. Ever see that movie? I can't remember all of the stars... I know Drew Barrymore was in it... Anyway, it's a western focusing on four women. As it's an OLD movie, I'll tell you the basic plot -- at least what I can remember. There's a bad guy, and he kidnaps one of the girls. The rest of the group rescues her. Two seconds later, they take one of the other girls... they rescue her... Then the hero in the movie is in trouble and they save HIM... then another girl is taken and they need to come up with another escape plan... Did I mention one of my friends actually threw his shoe at the movie screen?

Okay, I know it sounds MEGA harsh to compare this book to this obviously crap movie. I don't mean to make it sound like that. But one particular plot line -- dealing with Faythe's various love interests reminded me SO much of this...i.e. I'll make out with this guy for a while...oops, we're caught... then I'll go mack on this other guy... drat, someone walked in... rinse and repeat, several times in like a 36 hour period. (A period, I must mention, during which one of her dear friends and one of her _cousins_ has been kidnapped -- and during which she herself is being hunted.) Not only did it make me question WHY I should like this character, but made me fear for my sanity. Talk about a revolving door love life. Okay, okay...she's young, I get that. But honestly, I didn't like her so much during this part of the book, and it was at the beginning. THAT said, the sexual tension was good...and it MADE me want to turn the pages... but only because I wanted her to end up with one of the guys, and I was waiting for her to snap out of it.

That brings me to my second issue with this book. I love strong female characters. I like it when women stand up for themselves and know how to fight back and not always play the victim. But saying they're strong and actually being strong are two very different things. I can't tell you how many times characters told Faythe how strong she she's meant to lead the pack...and yet, nothing she did convinced me of this -- at all. Quite the contrary, in fact. I thought she created more problems than she solved--her decisions most times made in order to avoid taking help from men or admitting she was weak. This of course resulted in predicaments that could've been avoided.

That's not to say she didn't earn my respect during certain parts of the book. There were times she really stood her ground when most would probably freak out and wallow in self-pity. It's just that I didn't think she quite lived up to reputation before it was thrust upon her. Had it just been herself making these claims, I think I would've believed it -- but it was everyone around her... With her behavior most of the time, I was actually quite surprised her father didn't throw her into the cage he kept threatening her with.

And finally, one last gripe. Over-explanation. Every time a member of Faythe's pack would do something, Vincent would launch into a bunch of backstory about werecat history/laws/behavior patterns, etc. Okay, that makes sense... but this lasted throughout the entire book. It got to the point where she started repeating herself in certain spots... and well, I'm not convinced most of it was even necessary. Most of it could be inferred from what was happening at the time...or summed up more succinctly. She even did this with other things -- slowly revealing backstory about relationships, etc. I don't necessarily have a problem with that, but when you're not finding out a pertinent bit of history until late in the book, it seems weird. Could be me.

Anyway, I'm sure it's probably unclear why I'm so torn on this book. It sounds like all I'm doing is complaining about the things I didn't like. But the truth of the matter is that I _really_ wanted to like it -- thought it had so much potential, but it JUST missed the mark for me. It's one of those books that had so much going for it, that these things stood out like big red banners. Sigh.

Will I read the next book? Absolutely.

Buy or Rent? I just don't know.

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