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2014 Reading Challenge
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House Rules

House Rules (Chicagoland Vampires, #7)
by Chloe Neill

In a city full of vampires, trouble never sleeps.

At the tender age of 27, Merit became a sword-wielding vampire. Since then, she’s become the protector of her House, watched Chicago nearly burn to the ground, and seen her Master fall and rise. Now she’ll see her mettle—and her metal —tested like never before.

It started with two . . . Two rogues vanishing without a trace. Someone is targeting Chicago’s vampires, and anyone could be next. With their house in peril, Merit and her Master, the centuries old Ethan Sullivan, must race to stop the disappearances. But as they untangle a web of secret alliances and ancient evils, they realize their foe is more familiar, and more powerful, than they could have ever imagined. (goodreads.com)

You know what I am going to start with? I’m going to start with the cover. I mean, look at this cover. You might not notice much by just looking at the tiny image on my blog, but in real life this cover is just abysmal. The photo of the cover model is so horrible, it’s like someone made an Awkward Photo mock up cover as a joke and it accidentally got printed. The entire photo is just completely lacklustre. I know the UK covers for this series are sort of cheesy, what with the glowing cover model, but I kind of like them. This one is just so bland and embarrassing. Nothing about this photo says “Strong, sassy, Sentinel Vampire”.

*ahem*

And now on to what I thought of the story between the cover…

There are two stories going on in this book. One story about random killings of vampires and another about Cadogan House’s detachment from the, um, Grand, um… GP… the, you know, group of Vampires that keep everyone together. Wow. It’s been a while since I read the book and I can’t think of the name of the  governance body. Oops.

I was more interested in the random vampire killings than I was about Merit’s double life of being a Cadogan vampire and a member of the Red Guard and the politics of vampires pissing off other vampires. I do think that Cadogan house becoming rogue vampires was a pretty neat move to keep the story interesting, but I like how these books normally have some mystery to them and that wasn’t it. The mystery was the killing of rogue vamps and I felt like there was a whole lot of space between introducing that element of the story and then finally getting back to it.

I also found that the resolution to that mystery happened way too fast and sort of as if it was just tossed in there as an afterthought because there was a completely different story going on at the same time.

I didn’t exactly dislike this instalment of the Chicagoland Vampires series, but I didn’t love it, either. I did find it more enjoyable than the last book, but nothing beats the WOWZA! that was Hard Bitten. I feel like I am comparing each new book in this series to that one.

Regardless of my preference for which of the stories took the lead in this book, I am pretty sure that Cadogan House being rogue (in a way) is a huge turn for this series. I am very eager to see where the next two books take me because I am sure I’m in for some delightful supernatural shenanigans in the future!

Chicagoland Vampire series

  1. Some Girls Bite
  2. Friday Night Bites
  3. Twice Bitten
  4. Hard Bitten
  5. Drink Deep
  6. Biting Cold
  7. House Rules
  8. Biting Bad  – August 2013
  9. Wild Things – 2014

 

Biting Cold

Biting Cold (Chicagoland Vampires, #6)
by Chloe Neill

Turned into a vampire against her will, twenty-eight-year-old Merit found her way into the dark circle of Chicago’s vampire underground, where she learned there was more to supernaturals than met the eye—and more supernaturals than the public ever imagined. And not all the secrets she learned were for sharing—among humans or inhumans.

Now Merit is on the hunt, charging across the stark American Midwest, tailing a rogue supernatural intent on stealing an ancient artifact that could unleash catastrophic evil on the world. But Merit is also the prey. An enemy of Chicagoland is hunting her, and he’ll stop at nothing to get the book for himself. No mercy allowed. No rules apply. No lives spared. The race is on. (goodreads.com)

After the whirlwind that was Hard Bitten  I was really excited to get my hands on Bitter Cold and I had pre-ordered it months ago.

Yet… I found I was underwhelmed by this sixth book. A ton of stuff happened, yes, but for some reason it just didn’t click with me like the other books have. I found it sort of boring. I am totally distraught by this realization though because the stuff that went on in the book was so far from boring! Maybe I just wasn’t in the right head space for the book? Of course I seem to be on a constant up and down with this series, I will adore one book and find the next one all meh.

Maybe I’m just not a huge fan of Merit and Ethan and their sexual tension and Will They or Won’t They relationship? I honestly think that’s what made me not love this book as much as I should have. Also I found the story was lacking in a lot of the humour I normally enjoy in this series.

HOWEVER, like with all of the books in this series, the ending of this book totally rocked my socks off. I am once more impatient for the next book, House Rules because I need to know how this story progresses. I will say this for Chloe Neill and the Chicagoland Vampire series… things happen and change at a remarkable pace and although I didn’t quite find this book the most entertaining out of the 6 books, I am always surprised and contented by the constant changing and action in the stories. You don’t just re-live the previous books over and over with each new novel. There is a constant flow of plot development and I LOVE that.

And although I wasn’t head-over-heels for Bitter Cold, I continue to love and enjoy this series and still consider it to be on my top 10 series of all times. (I should write a post about those at some point, I guess!)

Merit, you are awesome and I wish we were friends!

Chicagoland Vampire series

  1. Some Girls Bite
  2. Friday Night Bites
  3. Twice Bitten
  4. Hard Bitten
  5. Drink Deep
  6. Biting Cold
  7. House Rules
  8. Biting Bad  – August 2013
  9. Wild Things – 2014

Drink Deep

Drink Deep (Chicagoland Vampires, #5)
by Chloe Neill

Clouds are brewing over Cadogan House, and recently turned vampire Merit can’t tell if this is the darkness before the dawn or the calm before the storm. With the city itself in turmoil over paranormals and the state threatening to pass a paranormal registration act, times haven’t been this precarious for vampires since they came out of the closet. If only they could lay low for a bit, and let the mortals calm down.

That’s when the waters of Lake Michigan suddenly turn pitch black-and things really start getting ugly.

Chicago’s mayor insists it’s nothing to worry about, but Merit knows only the darkest magic could have woven a spell powerful enough to change the very fabric of nature. She’ll have to turn to friends old and new to find out who’s behind this, and stop them before it’s too late for vampires and humans alike. (goodreads.com)

(If you have not read this series yet, especially if you have not read the previous book, I would highly suggest that you do not read this post because as much as I do not want to spoil books for people, it’s going to be impossible to NOT spoil them. You have been warned.)

THINGS HAPPENED IN THIS BOOK THAT I DID NOT LIKE!!!

OMG! Chloe Neill is killing me! First, there was the shocking ending of Hard Bitten, and now…this! THIS! AUTHOR LADY, I AM SO MAD AT YOU!

But, like, you know, in a good way. In a “before you even send a manuscript to the publisher I NEED TO READ IT” sort of way.

I couldn’t have known that one of my innocent paragraphs in the review of Hard Bitten would come back to bite me in the bottom as badly as it did.

I saw it coming though. I did. It wasn’t a very subtle plot path, in my opinion, but I was denying it the entire time, thinking that the story wouldn’t go THAT way at all. No, something would twist and my fears wouldn’t come to fruition. The twist I was expecting didn’t twist the way I was expecting at all though. The result was much, much more shocking.

And then the ending just got better and better and more shocks happened!

All the while I was reading the book and thinking, “Well, Merit and Jonah are pretty dull together. I don’t know if I’ll like the stories as much now that X is gone.”

But there was SO MUCH MORE!

I can’t even.. I don’t even… I just don’t know what to say that won’t spoil this for everyone if you’re not yet at this point in the series. I was sure that I was going to find this instalment in the series boring, I was all geared up for that, too. Suprise! No true boredom, but a lot of OMG!s.

I am beyond curious to find out where this series is going. You can be certain that Biting Cold will be purchased as soon as it comes out in the UK (head’s up, Jenny, darling. ha!).

The fact that Chloe Neill has me reading, enjoying and excited for books about vampires is just astounding. I hate vampires with a passion. I stay away from vampire books because vampires just bore me. The world that has been created and the characters of the Chicagoland Vampire series are what draws me in. That, and phenomenal writing. This isn’t a vampire series like any other that I have read. There’s no love triangle (though, I wonder now) and for that I am grateful (hopefully that will last). The dialogue is sharp and witty, Merit is strong, intelligent and not afraid to stand up for what she needs to do. She speaks her mind and asks for advice. She uses the friends around her to strengthen her actions. She is kick-ass and someone that I would LOVE to befriend. Merit makes me like vampires for once. Heck, the entire cast of vamps in this series are likable.

Cannot wait for the next book and I hesitate to even imagine what’s in store when I get my hands on it.

Chicagoland Vampire series

  1. Some Girls Bite
  2. Friday Night Bites
  3. Twice Bitten
  4. Hard Bitten
  5. Drink Deep
  6. Biting Cold
  7. House Rules
  8. Biting Bad  – August 2013
  9. Wild Things – 2014

Hard Bitten

Hard Bitten (Chicagoland Vampires, #4)
by Chloe Neill

Times are hard for newly minted vampire Merit. Ever since shapeshifters announced their presence to the world, humans have been rallying against supernaturals–and they’re camping outside of Cadogan House with protest signs that could turn to pitchforks at any moment. Inside its doors, things between Merit and her Master, green-eyed heartbreaker Ethan Sullivan are … tense. But then the mayor of Chicago calls Merit and Ethan to a clandestine meeting and tells them about a violent vamp attack that has left three women missing. His message is simple: get your House in order. Or else.

Merit needs to get to the bottom of this crime, but it doesn’t help that she can’t tell who’s on her side. So she secretly calls in a favor from someone who’s tall, dark, and part of underground vamp group that may have some deep intel on the attack. Merit soon finds herself in the heady, dark heart of Chicago’s supernatural society–a world full of vampires who seem too ready to fulfill the protesting human’s worst fears, and a place where she’ll learn that you can’t be a vampire without getting a little blood on your hands… (goodreads.com)

Although The Book Depository has attempted to thwart  my UK edition purchasing of this series, I fooled them by having Jenny have it shipped to me. Like heck I’m about to switch to the NA editions when I am 4 books in. Take that, Book Depository and your discriminating ways! (Ok, so I still love BD even if I am highly miffed at the blocked UK titles.)

I went through three phases reading this book. I started out “meh” and although I enjoy the series I wasn’t feeling the way I thought it was going. Then I switched to “yay” because the book got a lot more fun and interesting. The final phase was OMFG WTF?!!?!? with that ending. OMG THAT ENDING! I was completely blown away and did NOT see any of that coming at all. Way to mix it up, Neill. Way to keep this series fresh and original. Way to shock the heck out of me!

Of course I shan’t be telling you lot anything about the ending because I do not want to spoil it. =P

Merit is such a great character! She’s smart, independent, tough, sweet and sarcastic. She does not spend her newly immortal life pining over Ethan (although there are moments, but it’s not done in a way that makes my teeth gnash together in rage), she doesn’t make stupid choices and only get out of tough situations by luck. She’s the type of heroine you want to read about. One who can take control of a situation but still have life-like reactions to what’s going on. She’s not invincible by any means and she does make mistakes, but everything about her seems natural. If I had to pick another female protagonist who I find smilar, I’d pick Mercy Thompson from Patricia Briggs series. Tough, smart, but normal and realistic.

Part of Merit’s charm is her friendship with Mallory. I adore Mallory and though she didn’t play as grand a role in Hard Bitten as I would have liked, it still made me smile to find her on the page. I am hoping that more about her sorceress studies will crop up in future books (two more at least! Woot!)

It’s odd that I love this series so much since it’s about vampires and I don’t like vampires. Something about the Chicagoland vamps is different than most other urban fantasy vampires. The series is just that slightly different that makes it stand out among the crowd. The writing is fantastic, the humour divine and the characters relatable. Yet, Chloe Neill’s YA series (Dark Elite) isn’t cutting it for me and it has witches in it! I have been 3 chapters in to Hexbound for two months and I just can’t bring myself to care about the characters or story. I liked the first book well enough to have bought the second, but I’m not feeling it.

I think I’ll stick to the adult novels for now. I cannot wait until November to read about what happens after this ending, because hooooo boy!

Chicagoland Vampire series

  1. Some Girls Bite
  2. Friday Night Bites
  3. Twice Bitten
  4. Hard Bitten
  5. Drink Deep
  6. Biting Cold
  7. House Rules
  8. Biting Bad  – August 2013
  9. Wild Things – 2014

Twice Bitten

Twice Bitten (Chicagoland Vampires, #3)
by Chloe Neill

Merit, Chicago’s newest vampire, is learning how to play well with others. Other supernaturals, that is. Shapeshifters from across the country are convening in the Windy City, and as a gesture of peace, Master Vampire Ethan Sullivan has offered their leader a very special bodyguard: Merit. Merit is supposed to protect the Alpha, Gabriel Keene—and to spy for the vamps while she’s at it. Oh, and luckily Ethan’s offering some steamy, one-on-one combat training sessions to help her prepare for the mission.

Merit must accept the assignment, even though she knows that she’ll probably regret it. And she’s not wrong. Someone is gunning for Gabriel Keene, and Merit soon finds herself in the line of fire. She’ll need all the help she can get to track down the would-be assassin, but everywhere she turns, there are rising tensions between supernaturals—not least between her and a certain green-eyed, centuries old master vampire. (goodreads.com)

This is the Merit I love and adore! Twice Bitten was sassy, funny and full of action. It felt much more like the first book and a lot less like the second. I laughed numerous times while enjoying this story and the action kept my attention much more.

I was a little worried about the addition of shifters to the story, however. I tend to start to like a series and then the shifter and/or vampire is introduced later on and suddenly it’s all conflict, conflict, conflict, love triangle, conflict, blah, blah blah… but Chloe Neill handled things well and in her own way. I like the paranormal world she’s created with her own twist on the lore and it worked for me.

Yes, there was conflict, but it was acknowledged from the start and it wasn’t your typical vamp/were animosity. There was a history that explained the rift and there were a few on each side that didn’t agree.

The romance/tension between Merit and Ethan is a little irritating, but I love how strong and snarky she is with him when he needed to be put in his place. That being said, I think the relationship is better without the addition of sex and mushy-gushy whatevers. I guess this wouldn’t be urban fantasy without the romance though. As romances go, it’s really not that bad and I wasn’t subjected to pages and pages of “just so I can write it” sex scenes. Thank goodness.

Looks like the fourth book comes out this spring and I will be heading on over to Amazon UK to pick it up you can be sure! I wish I knew why the Book Depository won’t let me order it? And yes, I do prefer the UK editions of this series. Something about the covers. Although I have noticed that the North American editions are getting better covers and I am torn between which I like better now. Sticking with the UK eds though to keep my series in uniform!

Chicagoland Vampire series

  1. Some Girls Bite
  2. Friday Night Bites
  3. Twice Bitten
  4. Hard Bitten
  5. Drink Deep
  6. Biting Cold
  7. House Rules
  8. Biting Bad  – August 2013
  9. Wild Things – 2014

Friday Night Bites

Friday Night Bites (Chicagoland Vampires #2)
by Chloe Neill

Ten months after vampires revealed their existence to the mortals of Chicago, they’re enjoying a celebrity status usually reserved for the Hollywood elite. But if people learn about the Raves-mass feeding parties where vampires round up humans like cattle—the citizens will start sharpening their stakes.

So now it’s up to the new vampire Merit to reconnect with her upper class family and act as liaison between humans and bloodsuckers, and keep the more unsavory aspects of the vampire lifestyle out of the media. But someone doesn’t want peace between them—someone with an ancient grudge… (goodreads.com)

I was soooooo excited to continue this series and was thrilled when Jenny from Wondrous Reads offered to help me find the UK editions I was looking for. I had kept these on my Book Depository wishlist and yet when I went to buy them at Christmas time found they were no longer available to order at that time.

Once I finally sat down to read I found my excitement waning. Friday Night Bites was just not as good at its predecessor Some Girls Bite. I was sad. I almost gave up on this book but I decided to continue because I was certain the story would pickup at some point. It did, eventually, about 2/3 of the way through. The humour and excitement of the first book just wasn’t there in this one. I found the beginning slow and the plot pushed aside for way too much recapping of what happened in the first book.

I really liked the last third of the book however, when the action picked up. I liked it enough that I was thrilled that I had the next book waiting to be read. I also did some looking around at other reviews of the second book and found many people didn’t like it as much as the first, so I didn’t feel so all alone.

The book was awkward and as sequels tend to do, did not quite live up to the brilliance that the first book had. I wasn’t giving up on the series however because I adore Merit and I do enjoy Neill’s writing style. I get the impression she much have a wicked sense of humour for all the snark and sarcasm Merit has that makes me laugh out loud. I laughed much more while reading the third book, Twice Bitten and I also enjoyed it almost as much as the first book, if not more.

Not all books in a series can be winners though I am sad that I found the sequel slower to get into than Some Girls Bite. I hope if others read the series they don’t give up on the second book but continue to the third which will make up for the awkward stall in between.

Chicagoland Vampire series

  1. Some Girls Bite
  2. Friday Night Bites
  3. Twice Bitten
  4. Hard Bitten
  5. Drink Deep
  6. Biting Cold
  7. House Rules
  8. Biting Bad  – August 2013
  9. Wild Things – 2014

Some Girls Bite

Some Girls Bite
by Chloe Neill

I started this book on the train to visit my friend Monkey at her home. It was a 2-ish hour trip and I had almost finished the book by the time I got there. I read before bed my first night there and in the morning when I woke up. From the first chapter I just knew – I loved this book.

Merit is a grad student who was attacked viciously one night on campus. She was then saved by Ethan, the head of the Cadogan Vampire House. Merit resents being turned into a vampire against her will and is not the most subservient initiate vampire in the House which gets her into a ton of trouble as she constantly challenges Ethan by her words and actions.

Merit is awesome.

Merit is funny, smart, cheeky and fun. I loved her from the first pages. I also loved her roommate Mallory a ton and I was so happy that she was not just a background character like I thought she would be. The men in the novel are all sort of generic to me, and I had trouble keeping track of who was who for a while. I knew Ethan as the head of the House but I was constantly getting Jeff and Catcher mixed up.

Neill’s vampires are different than many others. They don’t sparkle and they can’t go out in the daylight (thank goodness) but they are also not dead. Vampirism is a changing of blood while a person is alive and although I didn’t quite understand the entire process, they are not the undead as is the norm for vamps. There are 12 vampire Houses in North America, three of which reside in Chicago (poor Chicago!) and they have only recently been outed to the humans.

There might have been some plot issues that bugged me but I was always quickly distracted by the witty dialogue and action – there is a lot of action in this book. The mystery is a decent one although slightly see-thru and I wasn’t all that surprised at the climax when everything came together. But I thought the story leading up to that point was fun and worth reading. After the first 35 or so pages I knew I was going to be making another stop to The Book Depository UK soon because I do want the second book – and I want to keep them in the UK editions, not just because they have pretty covers but also because they’re seriously cheaper than buying them in the stores here. Weird.

Cover thoughts – I really liked the look of the UK edition versus the North American one, however when I actually got it in the mail and looked at it, the book really looks like it’s aimed at the Young Adult Market whereas the NA edition doesn’t really. I am curious if this series is shelved in the YA sections or the Adult Fantasy sections in the UK.

I can’t really afford to buy any more books right now. I’m not just saying that either to try and quell my book buying addiction, we’re really tight on money right now (lay-offs suck) so I don’t know when I can justify buying this second book, but it’ll happen soon come hell or high water. ;)

Chicagoland Vampire series

  1. Some Girls Bite
  2. Friday Night Bites
  3. Twice Bitten
  4. Hard Bitten
  5. Drink Deep
  6. Biting Cold
  7. House Rules
  8. Biting Bad  – August 2013
  9. Wild Things – 2014