Monday, October 4, 2010

The Good, The Bad, And...Frannie?!

I first received this book from a GoodReads ARC giveaway about a month ago. Being the procrastinator I am, I planned to review it before the release date, but other commitments were edging it out. So, after putting it off for a few weeks, I was finally about to crack down and read it...when I spied it on the shelves at my local Borders! Apparently the bookstores weren't quite clear on the official release date. So, of course I bought it immediately.

Now that the book was out in the world, I knew I needed to crack down and get the book read. Still, since the deadline had passed, it wasn't pressing on my mind as much as it had been...which I knew was a mistake. Finally, this weekend I cleared my schedule and faced these Personal Demons...

As always, this review contains no spoilers.

~Personal Demons~
Personal Demons
Book 1
By Lisa Desrochers
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

When Luc Cain transfers to Haden High, he has a little more on his mind than just finding his classes and making new friends. He's on a mission. There's one soul here which has special properties, and it's his job to find and tag that soul for Hell.

No, he's not some D&D nut. He's a genuine demon—horns, tail, brimstone heart, the works—and he's the best at what he does. Which means it's no surprise to him when he thinks he's found his target within five minutes on the job.

Frannie Cavanaugh is more than a little surprised when the new guy, who happens to be drop-dead gorgeous, starts showing her some interest. She's never been much of a magnet for those types—that's more her friend, Taylor's, department. And, even though she really starts to enjoy it, she's gotta keep herself in check. After all, he feels a bit dangerous—what would her parents think?—and she doesn't want anyone to get hurt. Besides, she doesn't deserve a guy like him...

So imagine her shock when a second gorgeous guy, Gabe, shows up and gives her the same amount of attention. But Gabe's not just gorgeous, he makes her feel peaceful, safe, and— Woah! Back up a minute! Two drool-worthy guys fighting over her?! Has the universe lost its senses?

Luc needs her to pick him. Not only because it's his job, and he'll have Hell to pay if she doesn't, but he's beginning to develop some feelings he's never felt before. For her. There's something special about her...and perhaps that's why his boss wants her so much. Too bad Gabe is running so much interference. Stupid angels and their charm...

So now Frannie's faced with a choice: should she pick the safer bet who makes her feel things she's not sure she deserves to feel, or does she want someone a bit more dangerous who has awakened her carnal desires? Or will she decide she's safer not feeling anything for either one of them?

I won't lie—it took me a little while to get into the book. I think it was partly due to the use of present tense. Most of the stories I read are in the past tense: it allows for more background information, character reflection, and separation from the action. Having everything set in the present really threw me for a while, especially when introducing new characters. I had to read the 3rd chapter three times before figuring out who was who (apart from the three main characters).

Speaking of main characters, Luc has to be my favorite demon of all time (well, bar the one who is wreaking havoc in my mind). He's confident to a fault, sexy, and just a little arrogant. Okay, a lot arrogant. But he means well. Well, no, actually he doesn't. Anyway, he and I clicked immediately, and it was fun following him around. It just goes to show that even being around for a few millennia doesn't make you any more immune to love's first call.

Frannie, our female lead, took a little more time to click for me. On the one hand, she's strong and confident, but two seconds later she's shy and unsure. While it should have made her more easily relate-able to me, instead it put me off. There are also a few issues she has later in the story that I feel she drops a little too easily. I wished she'd stuck to her guns a little more, gave a little more conflict.

Gabe, on the other hand, was extremely hard to root for. Not only because Luc and I clicked, but because Luc was given a narrative that Gabe wasn't. In some ways I understand—Luc undergoes a lot of change in this book, and it was essential that we saw/witnessed those changes. Gabe, meanwhile, has mind-reading powers, which might come off as too convenient or confusing for a first-person narrative. I am, however, looking forward to possibly including a Gabe narrative in future books. There's a lot of promise there, and I'd hate to see it continue to be untapped.

Personal Demons contains a lot of allusions to sex, alcohol use, and some strong language (one f-bomb, some beaver homes, a lot of excrement synonyms, and a whole lot of Hell and God). As far as sex is concerned, lust is one of the most known sins, and one teenagers especially are notorious for. It's never actually performed, but there is a lot of body touching and sensual stimulation. In fact, most of the romance is in terms of feeling aroused when with the two boys. On the whole, it made for a slightly uncomfortable romance. I don't think it was too risque, but I can see some parents having issue with it. And there's no doubt that it will have some rocky interludes in subsequent books.

As far as theology goes, it wasn't too hard to swallow. I come from a Christian family, Frannie comes from a Catholic family, and we're both pretty laid back about religion. The demons rely a lot on the 7 Deadly Sins (Lust, Pride, Jealousy, Wrath, Greed, Sloth, and Gluttony) when it comes to tagging souls, while the angels are mostly focused on keeping people from the sins, but neither side is very preachy either way.

I enjoyed the book, but I also had some problems with it—mostly on the romance side of things. I think partly my issues stem from having had a very similar idea for my own story. I would see characters/situations similar to my own and then they wouldn't go where I'd write them, or they weren't acting 'right' for me. It took me a while to let go, and I think a second reading will be much more enjoyable.

Overall, if you enjoy good vs evil, teenage romance, and a small pinch of theology, I think you'll enjoy Personal Demons.

Approximate Reading Time: 7 Hours

Audiobook Review
Read by Sara Barnett & Michael Nathanson
Length: 11 Hours
Listened at 2.7x Speed

Okay, confession time: The only reason I listened to this book at over 2x speed was because I was attempting to read both Personal Demons and Original Sin the night/day before Lisa Desrochers visited my local Powell's on her Girls' Nightmare Out Tour. I'm a horrible procrastinator, I know.

But with that out of the way, the speed was actually manageable. So long as you're reading along with the book, that is. And it probably didn't hurt to have read it once before. Still, for those with a time crunch or who prefer a faster pace, this recording was extremely accommodating.

And I believe I have the narrators to thank. That's right, narrators. Since the story is told from two perspectives (Frannie's & Luc's), it seems only fitting that they have two people telling the story. In some stories I've found changing perspectives tricky when putting down and picking a book back up - having to figure out whose voice you're hearing. This narration trick effectively eliminates that issue.

Now, this isn't a full-cast reading, so when you're in Frannie's perspective and Luc talks, it's still Sara reading the part and changing her voice. Same goes with Michael and girls' voices. I had to chuckle a couple times when one narrator would speak for the other's character—almost like they were mocking each other.

In that respect, the chemistry both on the page and in the ear worked perfectly. I was glad to hear their voices were picked up for the rest of the series (or at least book 2), because I honestly don't think I could hear either of them any other way.