(Let me `splain: I made an offer recently on a discussion board to spend the month of May reviewing books from the authors on that board. I told folks that, in this case, I would need their consent since my reviews would be absolutely honest. I didn't want anyone to be blind-sided or to feel they're being picked on since I like hanging out there. I also made it clear I would purchase my own copies to further distance myself from people I do know casually. I'm hoping to promote some new authors, particularly while big name pubs duke it out over e-books, but I won't do that at the expense of honesty. My first obligation and responsibility when I review remains is to the readers.)
My first selection, coming in a few days before the May start date, is The Blood Approves by Amanda Hocking. I selected it because, well, she was one of the first people to give consent, but because I really liked the title. Somehow I missed the fact that she's also a fellow Minnesotan, but that's icing on the cake. I'd called this young adult.
The story follows Alice Bonham as she becomes involves with Jack and then his family. Jack is somewhat mysterious and she's attracted to him, because she's less attracted to him than your average girl. Huh? What I mean is that she sees people looking at him like he's a rock star, and he strikes her as a slightly above average looking, charismatic, guy. She feels drawn to him, sure, and her moods seem to mirror his, but she seems to also see him more realistically than other people they meet. Now, his family is another matter...
I don't think anyone could get through the first scene with Jack, let alone the second, let alone looking at the cover, let alone the title, without knowing Jack's big secret. I'm not sure it's to Alice's credit that she doesn't get it for half the book, but she makes a guess much earlier that would be in the old hot-cold game pretty warm. There were just too many clues. I think the reason it still worked is what wasn't revealed. There were still enough details and blanks to be filled in that, even with the various flaws, I kept hitting next page on my Kindle. I think that's the important thing - that I had issues with the story, almost quit fairly early on, but just had to see what happened next. Amanda kept pulling me back in and that's a mark of talent.
The other flaw, which I expect to be prevalent as I read the indie books, which many of these choices will be, is that the story lacks proper editing. "They weren't moving very fast enough..." - two ways that sentence could have worked out, but not both. ::grin:: Beyond mistakes like that, the story could have used an overall tightening for pace. Some things would have been better expanded and others shortened. I think the book would have benefited from someone pointing out moments of illogic or the occasions when Alice seemed a bit slow on the uptake for plot driven reasons.
Much of the story involved feeling that Alice is being drawn in, perhaps supernaturally, and there are moments when this is done quite well. Other times, I "believed" Alice, but thought the descriptions could have been improved so that I could feel and better "witness" Alice's attraction to these people. Alice was also a very passive character, leaving major life decisions up to other people. This changed a little towards the end, but it still read as humorous when she told a character that it was her life and he couldn't make decisions for her.
One of the most interesting things about that book was Alice's relationship with her brother, Milo. I think he's a better brother to her than she is a sister to him. Occasionally he acted way too old for his age, just like Alice was pretty casual in her language skills most of the time and then would pull out major vocabulary, but he seemed like a really interesting kid. There was some foreshadowing that he might have a limited future in these books, but I think he's the person who grounds Alice. I also really hate the thought of him being hurt.
I do feel Amanda has a nice touch with humor and dialogue. I hope very much that she's committed to writing, because there's clear talent there that can only get better with time and experience, and I enjoyed the moments when that raw talent came through. I'm giving this a recommendation, with the provision that people realize that the writing is a little rough around the edges still. It did keep my interest and I did want to keep reading. (Please note that this is a series and that the book ends with a lot of unfinished business.)
More importantly, I believe I will read the sequel at some point so I can get the remaining questions answered -- including two fairly major ones. I'm going to give this a smidge under 3 stars. I believe that the essence of the story is 4 stars, but the execution and errors force me to mark it down some.