Book Review

Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

I usually know to whom to address my grievances, but in this case, I don’t know. Author Jeaniene Frost has written a kickass book with a heroine who fascinated me, a hero who was delicious, and a slowly escalating sense of terror and sexual tension that was very difficult to put down. This book passed the reading-on-the-bus test (wherein I look up from my book at Port Authority and go, “HUH?! We’re HERE? Nuh Uh!”) AND the take-the-book-out-of-my-bag test (wherein I ignore everything that is blinking and beeping at me from my laptop in favor of reading the book at home, which I rarely do). This novel was good.

My beef? It is book 1 of a series. And while I know better than to look the gift horse in the mouth and decide that it needs braces, I have to gripe about the ARCs I’ve read: if it’s book 1 of a series, how come it doesn’t bloody SAY that on the BOOK itself? I’m 30 pages from the end, and hello, a major conflict rears its head and I realize that it’s over but it’s not, and I totally whined in my own head: “Oh, no. It’s a seeeeerieeeeeees.”

I’m not ashamed: there was pouting. I was so involved with the characters and the building tension and the storyline that to learn I wasn’t going to get my happy ending in its entirety really, really burnt my toast.

So: note to whomever makes these decisions: please give me a little hint that this is the start of a series? I mean, I don’t even care if you completely humiliate me and say something like ‘Note to whining pain in my ass Sarah: this is a series numnuts.’ That’s fine. Just warn me, because nothing makes me grind my teeth like knowing that the story isn’t really over, but it’s over for me for now until book 2 makes an appearance.

However, you have to balance the good with the bad, so let me just say, while I’m addressing publishing folks – ya’ll. YA’LL. This is a hot rocking cover. Even Hubby picked it up and asked me about it. Sexy, mysterious, and very clever in its art – way to go. Seriously. Damn good.

Wanna hear about the book?

Cat Crawfield is a half human, half vampire 20-something, with a small town life and an upbringing regularly hosed down with shame from her grandparents and mother. Her mother was raped by a vampire, and Cat, born at 5 months gestation yet perfectly formed, was the result. She deliberately tries to hide her differences, but there’s no way to hide that she’s faster, stronger, and more resilient than the other humans in her life, to say nothing of her temper, which makes her eyes glow green.

Cat’s mother, who wields the Trowel of Guilt better than most, and I have a Jewish mother in law so I know whereof I speak, has preached long and loud to Cat that vampires are evil, horrible no good very bad things. Cat, with her superior skills and hunger for asskicking, has devised through trial-and-error and much independent research a tried and true method for dispatching vampires, and goes out nightly to hunt, lure, and kill vampires, trying to avenge her mother’s rape and her own misery.

This nocturnal badassery comes to a screeching halt when Cat is kidnapped by an exceptionally strong nosferatu named Bones, who is really, really old, really, really strong, and really, really, really sure that Cat is working for someone, someone who wants him dead. When Cat, sure her end is about two seconds away, tells him the truth about her life and mission, Bones refuses to believe her, until Cat’s emotions get the better of her and her eyes glow green. Bones, who is not a dumbass after many hundreds of years of existence, makes her an offer: train with him, and work with him as a vampire bounty hunter, or die.

Cat agrees, and the two of them team up to kill particularly evil vampires who have prices on their heads. They train, work, and, hellooo there, explore and attempt to resist the yummy sexual tension between them. Bones isn’t telling Cat everything about the vampires they’re stalking, and Cat, because she knows she’s being kept in the dark and because she’s been force-fed the “vampires are evil so kill ‘em all quick” routine from her mom, isn’t sure she can trust him. But man, she sure wants to find out more about Bones’ bone. (Sorry, couldn’t resist).

The action scenes are one after the other, leading to an incredibly spanking pace to this novel, with spicy revelations from Bones and Cat peppering the plot, and mixing my metaphors. I loved that Frost crafts an authentically British/Australian hero in Bones, with dialogue and colloquialisms that scan correctly – though, let’s see, blonde, pale, British old vampire… remind you of anyone? The larger story that parallels Bones and Cat and drives their mission together is also fascinating, and Frost doesn’t skimp on the worldbuilding, either. There’s also a fascinating examination of Who Art More Evil, the vampires or the humans, and the manner in which vampire society and social rules is described and revealed isn’t infodumpy, but instead arrives through the characters’ dialogue and actions. The revelations and explorations of the dichotomy between vampire society and human society is particularly intriguing because Cat herself stands on the border of both.

The only flaws, and I tempt spoilerage here so allow me to tread carefully, are in the backstory. There isn’t enough shown of Cat’s family to understand fully what motivates her, particularly in the end of the book where the plot takes a right hand turn and heads mightily towards the cliffhanger that yearns for book 2. As the reader, I had a hard time appreciating Cat’s anger and desire for revenge in the end of the book because those for whom she sought revenge weren’t all that much to begin with. I had a much more thought-provoking and involving read while Cat was struggling with her feelings about vampires, and her feelings for one vampire in particular, than I did at the end, which functioned mainly as setup for book 2. By the time the setup for book 2 arrived, I felt like I was reading a completely different character in Cat, and am not sure I bought all the changes in her personality that were evident by the final page.

And wherefore this book 2? Could there have been a happy ending to the story as-is, without the sudden arrival of The Plot Of the Next Book 30 pages from the end. To be fair, probably not. The issues that Cat struggles with, from her family to her personal strengths and weaknesses to her evolving understanding of her own place in her world are not easily solved in the novel-sized space, so I’m definitely curious as to how Frost will resolve those issues in the coming book. It would soothe my ornery self to know about how long the series will be, and if Frost has a definite end in mind, because I liked these two characters enough to want to witness their permanent and unquestionable happy ending.

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Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

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  1. Jepad says:

    Are there any urban fantasy or vampire books out there that AREN’T part of a series?  They all seem to be rolling that way in recent years.  The only one I can think of that’s a stand alone is Sunshine by Robin McKinley.

  2. Kalen Hughes says:

    The only one I can think of that’s a stand alone is Sunshine by Robin McKinley.

    Ah, yes . . . the best 3/4 of a vampire book every written and printed. I rarely wish for a series, but I’d sure like McKinley to at least FINISH the first book.

  3. I LOVED this book. Bones is now one of my favorite heroes. I cannot wait to read more about him. 🙂 I think Jeaniene did a fantastic job blending romance with urban fantasy.

  4. Sandra D says:

    Sarah, sweetheart, darling, I really, really hate to point this out to you, but right on the cover you linked to? Halfway to the Grave:

    A Night Huntress Novel. Um, kinda says series to me.

    *ducks and runs*

    ROFL! My word is simple58

    *ducks and runs again*

  5. Eileen says:

    I had a chance to pre-read this and I LOVED it too. It’s the pace that does it.  And Bones? sigh. Bones. Now begins the wait for book 2

  6. LesleyW says:

    I am very impatiently waiting to get my hands on this.

  7. Rhona says:

    I had a chance to read this ARC and Bones is my most favorite vampire EVER!

    I am completely addicted to this series and cannot wait for book 2.

  8. Danielle says:

    I read the excerpt on the author’s website some time ago & was intrigued, though I had the same reaction as you to the “blonde, pale, British old vampire”. ::cough:: Spike anyone? ::cough::

    That said, your review certainly makes it sound worth checking out.

  9. SB Sarah says:

    Halfway to the Grave:

    A Night Huntress Novel. Um, kinda says series to me.

    You are totally right and I didn’t notice that on the Amazon graphic. But my ARC doesn’t say that. Ergo, my woe.

  10. Lola says:

    It’s y’all, as in a contraction of ‘you all’. Not ya’ll. Y’all.

  11. Arethusa says:

    Ack. I don’t know. I’ve been burnt so many times by these kind of paranormals and god knows I’m waiting for this trend to die die die die….

    eh. I’ll read a few pages in Chapters. Can’t hurt.

  12. Arethusa says:

    Errr…when it’s released in October at which point I’ll probably have forgotten it existed. Oh well. 😀

  13. Mickle says:

    “I’m 30 pages from the end, and hello, a major conflict rears its head and I realize that it’s over but it’s not, and I totally whined in my own head: “Oh, no. It’s a seeeeerieeeeeees.”

    Oh, god.

    My parents gave me The Scions of Shannara when I was about thirteen and I stayed up late finishing it – only to have the same reaction.

    To top it all off, they’d given it to me because I’d made some noises about stumbling across one of the previous Shannara trilogies in a teacher’s room at school, and so when they saw the nice shiny new hardcover in the store…

    Yup, it wasn’t just first in the series, it was first in a hardcover series with a year or more between books.  And I was thirteen and (this being pre-Harry Potter) not used to the series I read being fresh off the presses and having to wait for the next one.

    The agony!

  14. Karen says:

    Oh, dear dog, please don’t ever let the urban fantasy trend die. They’re want make reading fun!!! I haven’t read this one, but I’ve got my hooks into bunches of others and absolutely love this hot genre.

  15. thebooklass says:

    I am sooo looking forward to this book. Also, this is a debate with my friends on the fact that it’s possible Cat’s panties on the front are showing. I think it’s shadow, but they think it’s black panties. Hmmm…

  16. Angela says:

    Sounds interesting but I’m a little tired of the way new urban fantasy series’s shove the protagonist’s (possible) love interest down our throats, or at least feel that paranormal & erotic go together like white on rice. I’m a hell of a lot more interested in the heroine’s kick-ass journey and the world-building than in whom she’s going to hook up with.

  17. smartmensab-tch says:

    Hey ya’ll…who’s this vampire you say Bones reminds you of?  Is it somebody in an Anne Rice book?  I haven’t read her vampire books although I’ve seen the movie Interview with the Vampire.
    (Is that title right?)

    See, I’ve been in the Biosphere for the last few years…nah, not really, just kidding. Thanks.

  18. MamaZ says:

    I’m not sure I could seriously take a hero with the name “Bones…” lol

    I don’t mind series. But I hate a book that ends with a cliffhanger, especially when I have to wait 1 hole year to know what’s going to happen. I think I’ll pass.

  19. DS says:

    Oh, noes.  Not another vampire book.  Can I has some steampunk (or at least something that doesn’t require a large number of the characters to be dead and/or furry at some point).

    I fell prey to Ilona Andrews (who writes about some of the creepiest vampires since the remake of Nosferatu) but I’m not sure I want to commit to another paranormal series.

  20. Vicki says:

    First, Hi.

    Second: Eileen, Jordan, Rhona? Back off. {g} I have dibs on Bones. I _wrote_ Jeaniene and called dibs. It counts, okay?

    Vicki (via M. Marr)

  21. PC Cast says:

    I’m so glad you reviewed this book!  I met Jeaniene a couple weekends ago at Conestoga in Tulsa and thought then that if her book is half as delightful as she is it’ll be a winner.  She was hanging with her good friend, Melissa Marr (author of the amazing Wicked Lovely – god that book is so fucking good!), who raved about it. 

    I like the series thing.  If a book is good, one isn’t enough ::cough:: SUNSHINE ::cough::.  My attention span is usually longer than a tsetse fly’s, so I’m okay with waiting.

    And if Bones = Spike I’m dork enough to fall in lurve.  Again.

  22. Thanks for the great review, Sarah! I’m sorry you didn’t know it was a series (Bad ARC! Could’ve mentioned it on the back, right?) and I agree with you completely on the awesomeness of my cover. I owe Tom the art director my kidney, should he ever need it 😉

    Frankly I am so flattered by your comments that I don’t know what to say without venturing into serious gushing. So I’ll sum up with this: Halfway to the Grave was the first novel I wrote, I almost fainted when Avon bought it, and now you’re my first online reviewer – and you liked it! I am off to pinch myself. This is too cool! 

    And yes, Vicki, I head you about the dibs on Bones. LOL.

    P.S. To “thebooklass” – as Sarah would know why, I am cracking up over you and your friends discussing what you can see up Cat’s dress. I’ll never tell, though. *wink* If you read the book, you’ll know you REALLY have cause for debate! 😉

    P.P.S. If this comment appears three times, it’s because I kept getting error messages. Sorry!

  23. Carita says:

    I fell for Ilona Andrews, as well as Patricia Briggs. Ugh! The waiting is slowly killing my soul. Series…how they torment me…

  24. Sandra D says:

    Halfway to the Grave:

    A Night Huntress Novel. Um, kinda says series to me.

    You are totally right and I didn’t notice that on the Amazon graphic. But my ARC doesn’t say that. Ergo, my woe.

    Posted by SB Sarah on 08/03 at 07:15 PM

    Now that makes perfect sense and sends my chortling butt right back where it belongs lol.

  25. thebooklass says:

    I’m trying to cause a stir. I’m hoping it works. They will say who’s that author with the chick who has her underwear showing on her book cover and I will say well…that’s Jeaniene Frost’s book or a good chunk of Ellora’s Cave. Either way, I hope it works. It’s gonna be a long time till October.

  26. Mya says:

    This book sounds great. Too bad we have to wait till Nov to read it.

  27. Najida says:

    OK, a chick in a mini-skirt and thigh high boots is an sexy hot cover, but a guy with a bare chest ain’t?

    I’m ‘fused.

  28. Angie says:

    I know its been a while since everyone has read this book.  I looooovvvveeed it too!!  I tell everyone to read this book!  I was just looking at her website today and found out the 2nd in the series comes out the end of April.  UGGGGGG Why so long????

  29. redd says:

    i have to agree with the is this a series thing…..i actually read the second book and was maybe half way through it before i was 100% sure that there was a book that came before it…but other than that a great read

  30. Kia Gary says:

    This was an awesome and smart book and I am so happy to see Smart Bitches loved it too!  By now many of you have read the second book as well.  IMHO, if you thought the cover of the first book was hot, the cover of the second book is tres hotter!  Better news, I personally found the second book more fun that even the first!

  31. Prianca says:

    I think all the reviews that i read built it up too much..I guess thats why I am a little disappointed with it.I felt that it could have been more….you know?

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