Normally, I don't pay attention to covers. They are usually just random images on the front of a book; most of the time, I chose books by the colors they use. You know, blues and grays attract my attention more than reds and oranges. Yeah, its still, but it's part of who I am. I mention that because the cover to Halfway to the Grave, by Jeaniene Frost (blog), is a striking cover. I love the colors and I love the model they used for the picture. When I flipped through, I found it just as striking, so naturally I picked it up.
There are a lot of things to like about this book. Written from a first-person point of view, it is 358 pages long. The main character is relatively clueless but eager to perform her duties of clearing vampires out of the world. The insecurity and fumbling of the main characters is, to be honest, absolutely wonderful. It brings humanity to the character and it dull the edge of anyone who is faster, stronger, and better than your average human. Perfection is a great thing to aim for, but I honestly prefer my characters to be rather flawed. And in this case, almost everyone is deliciously, wonderfully flawed. And they grow! They develop as characters throughout the novel in ways that make sense (baring one set of scenes). They don't always succeed and they struggle with choices in a witty way that makes it very easy to read. It also swirls between humor, action, and love smoothly, bouncing from one to another while Frost manages to keep the edge of the story going.
The writing style is relatively plain by elegant, playful with a few places being abrupt. Since I read books by imagining scenes, I was glad to find that I could picture everything as it was being told; one of my measures of a good book. Another is how fast I can read it. Stories I enjoy the most take less than two hours to read because I find myself immersed in the scenes. This was one of those books, sweet and descriptive. Coupled with the personalities that grow in the book, it actually drew me into the relationship between Cat and Bones but also into the interactions of how Frost built up her vampire world.
The vampire foes were great. There was something nice about intelligent enemies, foes that give a challenge and keep on going. The foes in this book are built up in the same way. Catching the players at every point, being smart without being omniscient (I hate perfect villains too) but there was a point when I realized they just turned stupid. Sadly, this is one of the few scenes I really didn't care for the book. That point in the book felt rushed but also in slow motion. Great fight descriptions, lovely detail, but the antagonist got a bit too stupid too fast.
Likewise, I really didn't like the end of it. It was one of those endings where you want to just slap the main character for doing something obviously stupid. Not going to go into details, but I really wanted her to pick the other choice. Instead, she latched onto a different ending which, while leaving it open nicely for a sequel, didn't really appeal to me. Say I'm ruined by Fushigi Yugi, but after the relationships were developed, suddenly breaking them just irked me a bit.
In part, there are multiple stories in the book. One of them is her fight against the vampires and the other is how she interacts with Bones. Both are critical to the story, but only the latter has really damn good seduction and sex scenes. There is also this tale acceptance and resistance, like the ebb and flow of waves. For the first couple of times it happens, its enjoyable, but after while, I get to that slapping mood.
There are a few scenes of attempted rape, which will bother my lovely mate, but otherwise the sexuality stands well on its own. That is to say, it got a flush out of me. The parts about vampires being highly monogamous amongst themselves and territorial, while it was amusing, seemed a bit forced. Not to mention, somewhat contrary to the general impression I have of most vampires. Crime seems to be rather prevalent with the vampire community. True, most stories would be rather boring if nothing bad happen, but it hit one too many for me. On the other hand, there isn't one gender, religion, or social group that seems to be singled out; that I found to be a pleasant bonus.
Even with those points, I found myself devouring the book. Two hours flat for 384 pages is a pretty good clip for me. As I mentioned, the writing style is very easy on the eyes and the imagination, building up a story while letting the imagination fill in the rest. The characters grow nicely in the story and the relationship between the two main characters is touching.
Would I buy the sequel? Yes. It is a good book and the characters are endearing. Though, if Cat keeps on this relationship roller coaster, I'll still want to slap her.