Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

Halfway to the Grave is already on the NYT bestseller list in its debut week. And I was one of the people who bought it a day or so after it came out (hohoho, yes Barnes and Noble gift card!). The spine calls it "paranormal romance" and it was shelved in the romance section, but after reading it I have decided that my best description of it would be an urban fantasy for romance readers. This book is the first of what looks to be a series, so there is an open ended feeling to it that die-hard romance readers who need a HEA may not appreciate, but I personally liked it and it made me want to read more of this series. I'd be interested to see what other readers thought.

Anyway, this is the story of Cat – half vampire, half human, she is the product of her mother's rape 22 years ago by a newly turned vampire who apparently still had some viable sperm. Her mother's hatred of vamps overshadows her love for her daughter and Cat is pushed into the dangerous job of becoming a vampire-slayer at an early age. Every chance she gets, Cat goes to seedy bars, baiting vampires to try to suck her neck and killing them. Up to her usual tricks, she encounters Bones, and recognizes him as a vampire, but unlike other vamps, he ignores her baiting and later bests her when she tries to kill him and he thinks she is working for some vamps herself. Bones is also a vampire hunter, and after deciding she isn't a threat, just a self-taught slayer, he suggests an alliance and help with her training.

Overall I'd say I liked it. When I picked it up to read, I'd read 100 or so pages at a time, then put it down again. So – engaging but I was also antsy this week so it took me longer to read than it usually would. I shall buy book 2 when it comes out.

Bits I liked:

1) The cover!! It is pretty gorgeous. It's all matte finished and the artwork and coloring is amazing. Plus the author's name – Jeaniene Frost. That's a cool name.

2) Cat. Her character is unusual – I felt like even though she starts off somewhat young-seeming in this book, you see her growth and she matures a lot. This reminds me a little of Faythe in the werecat series by Rachel Vincent, except Faythe has a very strong family support structure and Cat practically has none (her family lives amogst bible-thumping stock that seem to expect her to sin). I guess she's a little broken by her past but she's more vunerable than hard.  

3) Fight scenes – oh especially towards the end, but the training was fun to read as well. Cat is a trigger-happy ass-kicker so there is much of that happening. I also enjoyed how her half-human part made her seem much less of a threat than she actually was, until she moved with inhuman speed, or her eyes glowed green. Fun to read.

4) Bones' humor. The bantering between Cat and Bones was good. They spend a lot of time in each other's company throughout the book, though Bones has Cat's number while Cat's still growing up. There were quite a few things Bone's said that amused me, and Cat does also make a few smart-ass remarks, but she didn't go over the line into being annoyingly smart-assed.

Some nitty things:

1) I think practically everyone is going to comment on this – Bones has a british accent, has hair bleached white and high cheekbones. Mightly similar to a certain character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This felt a little odd to read. Also when I read the part where Cat gives him a christmas present. It sounds like a black duster. Hmm.

2) At the start,Cat's dialog like calling Bones a suck-neck instead of what I'd expect in that situation – a chance to really swear like a sailor, made me pause. It made me think like the heroine was kind of immature, like she was in high school rather than in her early 20s. This did get better after the first 100 pages of the book. The last 100-150 pages were the best bit of the book where I didn't feel this anymore.

3) Slightly connected to the youth of the heroine. There were some bits where felt like there was a lot of angst on Cat's part. Her love interest was very aware of her hangups. He was consistently handling her with care, and I found it a little unbelievable that he was that patient, and loved her so much so quickly to be that way. The bumps on the road felt more on the romance novel, throwing a wrench into the love story side than what is typically in urban fantasy. And I don't know if it was Cat or love interest, but there was something a little too fast in the pacing of their feelings. This could be just me who felt this way, but even then I don't really think it was bad, this type of thing is pretty romantic to read, but it's part of why I'd call this urban fantasy for romance readers. Anyway, sort of mulling over this one still.

4) Stylistic comment – In the beginning, a lot of the vampire world was described in a long conversation between Cat and Bones. It felt like an info-dump.

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