Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Review: Once Bitten, Twice Shy by Jennifer Rardin

Title: Once Bitten, Twice Shy
Author: Jennifer Rardin
Series: Jaz Parks #1
Pages: 308
Publisher: Orbit books
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Source: Library

Goodreads Description:
Jaz Parks is an assistant assassin who works for the CIA. She and her boss, Vayl, have just received an assignment to meet, assess, and neutralize a Miami plastic surgeon with some disturbing supernatural connection. But things aren't all that they appear to be. It turns out the plastic surgeon has some friends in high places. As in the government, the military, and a very powerful vampire leader as well. With enemies at every corner, Jaz and Vayl are in a race against the clock to prevent the bad guys from decimating the country with a supernatural virus or epic proportions. 

My Review:
This book really fell flat for me. To be honest, it seems a little bit part of the "flash-genre". Vampires and supernatural beings are really popular, so someone decides to produce something that fits in the genre so that they can capitalize on that popularity. The plot and characters are very typical to the "pop" genre . You know how authors like Marry Higgins Clark and John Grisham are really popular and they sell a lot of books, yet you can barely remember the plot or the characters once you finish the last page? Well for me, I'm not a big fan of them. Those kind of books are just things to distract you from daily life...they don't bring anything fantastic to the world, they are just a way to occupy your time when you're bored...a little like the Jersey Shore. Once Bitten felt kind of like those pointless kind of works I'm talking about. There wasn't enough connection to characters to keep me interested from that aspect, there wasn't anything new or original added to the supernatural genre, even the main plot seems like it's been done time and time again.

My biggest issue was that nothing was clarified. Vampires, werewolves, and witches are all out and in the cultural knowledge, and we get no insight into how that happened. Was it bloody? Was it peaceful? Have they always been living mixed with humans for the whole history of time? We just don't know. The rules of this world in general are just really shaky. The social norms of dealing with vampires and other supernatural beings aren't explained. For example, Vayl is a vampire. Jaz works with vampires and is romantically interested in one. Then when a friend of hers gets turned, she just calls her evil and kills her. Wait, what? Why does being changed make her best friend evil when it isn't the case with any of the others? Also, Jaz kept gaining powers throughout the novel. Yet each new power is given less and less screen time so we don't understand the extent of the powers or why they are even appearing. The plot was full of little inconsistencies like that and they really added up so that I ended up not enjoying myself or the world that I was "living" in.

I did like Vayl, but I was kind of thrown off because we don't get to meet him. The book starts off before Jaz and Vayl are partners, but then in the next chapter it flashes forward six months so that Jaz and Vayl are already partnered and have more of a personal relationship rather than professional. By doing this, we miss out on them getting to know each other. There's no description of their first meeting, no witty banter, no development of their relationship as Jaz breaks down Vayl's cold hardened heart. I missed having that kind of a relationship, and because we don't get to see them grow to like each other it's kind of hard to enjoy the romance that is growing between the pair of them. He also isn't exactly a dominant kind of guy. You would think that over 300 years of surviving would leave a hardened alpha male, but that isn't exactly the case...he just kind of goes with the flow and gives into both his ex and Jaz's demands without batting an eyelash.

The dialogue was...interesting. I wanted to enjoy it, and in fact there were several quotes that I really liked or made me laugh, but for the most part the banter was choppy and confusing. There were analogies that were hilarious, but irrelevant. Some of the time I felt like I was just hearing one liner after one liner that didn't even apply to the story or have any significance other than being funny. You'd expect to hear some of the dialogue while sitting around with friends or in a bar, but not in everyday life, and not in your own personal monologue in your head. But still, it was funny so I can't rag on it too much.

"I just know, of all our suspects, if Martha's the rotten link there's no doubt we'll be coming out of this bruised and bloody."
 "You mean you prefer the senators?"
"Absolutely. They can't be nearly as mean, conniving, vicious, and underhanded as Martha." 
"She is an excellent secretary, isn't she?" 
"The best." 

The way the story was set up did get pretty interesting near the end, but for the first half of the book I was utterly confused. Jaz kept blacking out or daydreaming which really distracted me from the story. I didn't understand what was happening to Jaz because she didn't explain it better. Eventually you find out what's wrong with her, but I hate it when the narrator keeps things from me on purpose. It makes me feel tricked or lied to when the person that I've been following around inside their head has been purposely keeping things from me the whole time. It wasn't so much that Jaz was deliberately not telling us what was going on, it was just that she left lots of important things out. It's fine if she hadn't known what was wrong, but when it turned out that she knew almost everything that happened, I just felt really disconnected from her. The end was really the redeeming section. There was a lot of cool stuff happening like past lives, and weird people being alive when the shouldn't, oh, and mustn't forget the demon that was between half worlds and likes to chow down  on souls...that was pretty cool.
I give Once Bitten, Twice Shy 2 Keys. It wasn't really my cup of tea, and though I would be interested to read it's sequels, it might take a lot of pep talks before I actually go read them. To be honest, I found this story to be more of a chick-lit piece than true Urban Fantasy. There was a whole lot of emphasis on feelings and determining what was going on with each of the guys and not a whole lot of plot to back it up. The addition of Vayl's ex-wife made it particularly full of emotional drama when it could have used a more dramatic or action-y approach. The plot was a tad too unoriginal for me, and had a lot of holes that bugged me. I enjoyed the ending enough to consider giving it 3 Keys, but all in all, it just wasn't a good example of it's genre.

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