Saturday, February 27, 2010

Chosen (book) by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

I kind of had a hard time, at first, even remembering everything that happened in this book, because it didn't seem like much happened. Actually, not much did happen - most of this book is about Zoey's various relationships unraveling, with just a teensie bit about Stevie Rae to keep the story moving forward. All I can say is, thank goodness Zoey had to experience some of the consequences of her incredibly idiotic way of dealing with her multiple relationships.

Sorry for the long synopsis, but anyone who's still reading this blog should be used to this by now. As always, feel free to skip down to the commentary and/or book and movie suggestions.

Synopsis:

The book begins with Zoey's 17th birthday, which she is sure will be awful. Not only are her mother and mother's husband horrible as usual, her friends don't realize that she doesn't like "birthmas" gifts (her birthday is on Christmas Eve, so well-meaning people try to give her birthday gifts with a Christmas theme). Things get even worse when she opens a gift in front of them, not realizing until too late that it's a gift from Heath. Her friends' feelings are all hurt when they realize that Zoey didn't like the Christmas-y theme of their gifts, and Erik's feelings are especially hurt, because he sees this as yet another sign that Zoey must prefer Heath over him, because Heath knows her better than he does.

Before going back to try to mend things with her friends and boyfriend, Zoey, with the goddess Nyx's help, finds Stevie Rae. Stevie Rae, now a filthy shadow of her former self, is in an alley feeding off of a homeless person. Zoey manages to convince Stevie Rae to meet up with her later. She hopes she can find a way to "heal" Stevie Rae, but at the very least she wants to help her keep what little humanity she has left.

Once she gets back to the House of Night, Zoey makes up with Erik and has a steamy make-out session with him, complete with a little blood, only to be completely embarrassed when Loren catches them. Unlike Zoey, Erik doesn't mind Loren seeing them together. In fact, he does his best to rub his status as Zoey's boyfriend in Loren's face - he's definitely noticed how Loren has been looking at Zoey, although he doesn't seem to have noticed that Zoey has practically been panting after Loren.

While in the library looking for a way to bring Stevie Rae back to the way she once was, Zoey runs into Loren, which leads to him giving her a birthday gift (diamond earings), which then leads to the two of them kissing each other and him inviting her to his place for more. Zoey comes to her senses a little and comes up with an excuse for why she can't go to him, but it's obvious that her love life has gotten out of control.

Things get rocky with Erik again when Zoey tries to have him be Stevie Rae's replacement in her ritual circle and it doesn't work out. In fact, it turns out that Aphrodite now has an affinity for earth, making her the perfect replacement for Stevie Rae, much to everyone's dismay. Zoey convinces her friends to let Aphrodite be a member of their circle, although they grumble about it. Later, Aphrodite tells Zoey about a vision she had of Stevie Rae being killed, for good, by Neferet, who will pull her out into direct sunlight if something isn't done to prevent it. Aphrodite and Zoey hatch a vague plan to keep Stevie Rae at her parents' house (empty for three weeks while her parents are off skiing) and feed her blood stolen from the kitchen in the House of Night. They put the plan in motion, but it may not go so well, since Stevie Rae has to go through blood faster than Zoey or Aphrodite anticipated.

Back at the school, Zoey and Aphrodite are about to go their separate ways when Aphrodite starts to get the feeling that something's wrong. Aphrodite and then Zoey find the beheaded body of Professor Nolan, with nails through her wrists and ankles, a stake through her heart. The first person they find is Neferet. Although Zoey knows Neferet is bad, she's got to tell someone what they found. Neferet takes charge and sends Zoey off with Loren. They talk for a bit, and Zoey calms down. Again there is kissing and flowery love-speak. The mood is ruined a bit by Zoey's suspicion that her step-father might have had a hand in Professor Nolan's death.

Heath comes back to town, and Zoey manages to figure out a new vampire trick (which allows her to go all ghostly and invisible, so that even the warrior vampyres who are now crawling all over the school can't see her) that allows her to leave the school in order to see him. She's determined to break up with him once and for all, but things don't go the way she planned. Heath cuts himself again, and Zoey can't help but drink his blood. They get interrupted by some jerks, who Zoey then uses her powers against, inadvertently putting them in a situation that may possibly have killed them. Heath is shocked, and so is Zoey. Zoey goes back to the school with Heath still one of her boyfriends. Bad Zoey. Unfortunately, Zoey's friends accidentally spilled the beans to Erik, so Erik thinks Zoey has finally broken up with Heath, and she's too chicken to tell him the truth.

Neferet performs a special ritual that night, due to Professor Nolan's death. The ritual will tell her if any vampyre, fledgling, or human enters or leaves the school, which automatically makes it really difficult for Zoey to continue taking care of Stevie Rae. Then it's time for Zoey's ritual, which goes well, except then Erik collapses in agony. At first, Zoey thinks Erik is rejecting the Change, but it turns out he's actually completing the Change. After he's taken away, she's shaky - this reminded her too much of Stevie Rae's death after her last ritual. Plus, now that Erik is a vampyre, it's possible that they won't be able to be together until she completes her Change as well.

Loren finds her during her vulnerable time and tries to get her to tell him everything that's bothering her, but she resists. Soon, they're drinking each others' blood, and then they're having sex (although the Casts' kissing scene descriptions tend to be pretty steamy, the actual act of Zoey losing her virginity amounts to "Loren made love to me until our world exploded in blood and passion"). Afterward, Zoey learns that she and Loren have Imprinted, which broke her Imprint with Heath. Zoey now feels comfortable telling Loren more about what's been bothering her - she tells him about Stevie Rae and trying to find a way to cure her, although some last vestige of sanity (and the goddess's influence?) keeps her from admitting to him everything she knows about Neferet's involvement.

Unfortunately, their lovely post-sex interrogation scene is interrupted by Erik, who is hurt and angry at having caught his girlfriend with Loren. After getting dressed, Zoey ends up having a talk with Erik, in which she apologizes and tells him she and Loren are in love, and Erik says lots of hateful things and tells her that Loren is only using her for sex. Erik doesn't seem to realize that he caught Zoey and Loren having sex for the first time, rather than just one of many times, although I'm not sure that realization would've helped things much.

After that painful scene, Zoey goes back to Loren, only to eavesdrop on him and Neferet. Loren had been seducing Zoey in order to find out how much she knew, so that he could tell Neferet, the person he really loves. Zoey is heartbroken, and her friends go to her and ask her what's wrong. Erik tells them she's been having sex with Loren, and everyone is shocked, although Aphrodite stands up for Zoey and makes Erik leave. Things get even worse when Stevie Rae comes. Stevie Rae hadn't realized that Zoey hadn't told any of their friends she was still alive. Zoey's friends are hurt, and the only one who knows why she couldn't tell them (Neferet, who they all still believe is good, would have read their minds) is Aphrodite. Her friends are pissed, but they help Zoey form a ritual circle to heal Stevie Rae. Unfortunately, Stevie Rae comes completely unglued when Aphrodite demonstrates her affinity for earth. She attacks Aphrodite, and Aphrodite allows herself to be a sacrifice, completely healing Stevie Rae and turning her into a completely new kind of vampyre (she has the completed vampyre tattoos, but they're red instead of sapphire). Unfortunately, although Aphrodite is miraculously still alive, she now appears to just be a regular human - her Mark is gone. Aphrodite runs off, and Stevie Rae goes after her, leaving Zoey alone with friends who hate and distrust her.

On the way back to an assembly called by Neferet, Zoey collapses in agony. The pain goes away and she continues on the the assembly. Neferet begins by talking about how vampyres will now be at war with humans, but she's interrupted by the news that Loren has been killed, the same way Professor Nolan was killed. Zoey's pain was caused by the feedback of his death through their Imprint. After the assembly, Neferet and Zoey have a little confrontation, in which Neferet blames Zoey for Loren's death. Zoey officially declares herself and Neferet enemies and is comforted by the new tattoos that have appeared on her waist. Afterwards, she comes across Erik, who is shocked - he heard everything Neferet said to her and now knows that Neferet isn't as good as she seems. However, that doesn't fix things between him and Zoey.

Commentary:

I have to admit, main female characters who have guys falling at their feet for no apparent reason kind of annoy me - it was one of the things that drove me crazy about the Stephenie Meyer's Twilight books. I wasn't too surprised that Loren didn't adore Zoey as much as he said he did, since I had already thought Zoey was a bit of an idiot for always feeling all "womanly" around him. I wasn't sure who I wanted her to end up with, but Loren wasn't even on my list. Heath seemed like a nice enough guy, but he also seemed like a horny, fluff-brained puppy a lot of times. Erik was sexy enough, but his behavior had a tendency to bother me a bit. Now, I guess, Zoey has no one. Nice going, Zoey.

But wait, maybe she does have someone! After all, that one warrior vampyre, Darius, showed up quite a bit and seemed very loyal to Zoey, and Zoey kept noticing how muscular and good-looking he was. That's practically a recipe for a future boyfriend/lust object.

I know, it sounds like I'm being mean, but I also think I may be right. It really is a good thing that this series is intended for young adults (16+, I believe) rather than adults, or I'm sure I'd have to put up with long, drawn-out sex scenes reminiscent of Laurell K. Hamilton. Seriously, is it just me, or has that sort of thing become a trend? And, if it has, was Hamilton the one that started it? Anyway, if I'm going to have to put up with a heroine who can't decide between all the gorgeous guys she keeps tripping over, it's at least nice not to have to deal with super-detailed sex scenes. One, those are only sexy if there is actual affection and love in the mix. Two, it's hard to like a sex scene if all I can think about is how stupid the heroine is being - might as well keep the sex scene brief.

It's been months since I finished this book, and I still haven't even requested the next one. I'm sure I will, eventually, but I'm really getting tired of books like this. Maybe the next book will be better, but it's always quite possible that it will be worse. It's not good when you start to hate the main character of a series.

Read-alikes:
  • Guilty Pleasures (book) by Laurell K. Hamilton - Once again, this is the first book in a series set in a world where the things that go bump in the night have recently revealed themselves to the world at large. Before American law gave vampires, werewolves, and other beings the same rights as humans, Anita Blake was a vampire hunter. Now she's a vampire executioner, in addition to her full-time job as an animator (raiser of the dead). In this first book, we meet Jean-Claude, a vampire who is one of the many people throughout the series who will be competing for Anita's affection. The various supernatural societies in this series all have their own politics and culture, and the cast of characters is usually fun and interesting. The early books feel a lot like paranormal mysteries with a hint of romance. Be warned, though - at around book 10 or so, the tone of the series changes drastically, Anita becomes darker and harder, and the sex scenes become way more graphic and time-consuming, leaving little room for the mysteries that were part of the early appeal of the series. Those who enjoyed all the relationship angst in Chosen may, however, particularly like these later books.
  • Vampire Academy (book) by Richelle Mead - This is the first book in a series. Lissa is a mortal vampire princess and Rose is her half-human/half-vampire guardian. After having been on the run, they are forced to return to St. Vladimir's Academy, a private high school for vampires and the half-bloods who protect them. Rose and Lissa must deal with dangerous social politics, as well as the discovery that Lissa seems to have abilities that haven't been found in vampires for generations. Those who'd like another young adult book (and series) featuring main female characters who must deal with danger, intrigue, and complicated relationships might want to try this. Like Chosen, this book is aimed at an audience mature enough to handle the occasional bit of steamy sex and "language."
  • The Summoning (book) by Kelley Armstrong - After Chloe Saunders suddenly starts seeing ghosts, her father and her aunt have her admitted to Lyle House, a home for troubled teens. All Chloe wants is to convince the adults at Lyle House that she's better and can leave, but it's not long before she starts noticing that there may be something sinister going on. A couple of the other teens at Lyle House are convinced that Chloe really can see ghosts and is, in fact, a necromancer - they may know what they're talking about, since one of them can do magic. Similar to Zoey, Chloe has to deal with sudden freaky changes to her life, new friends and enemies, people who can't necessarily be trusted, and potential romance (a very tiny part of the book, since Chloe is more concerned with getting to go home that finding herself a guy in the slim pickings of Lyle House).

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