Destiny: Absent Shadows Trilogy, Book 1 by S. M. Spencer

Destiny

Absent Shadows Trilogy, Book 1

by S. M. Spencer

Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Vampires

Four Stars

Lili McIntyre just ended a difficult relationship and is now on a much-needed summer vacation to Melbourne, Australia for a few months. Her aunt Debs welcomes her Down Under and provides her with a chance to clear her head. On the plane, Lili meets Claire, and that new friendship introduces her to more than she dreamed of. Though Claire doesn’t know it, her new boyfriend, Tom, has an enormous secret. The oblivious Claire introduces Lili to Sam, Tom’s close friend. As a natural double-date, Sam and Lili find themselves thrown together and soon discover a growing attraction.

Soon, Lili discovers why Sam and Tom behave so strangely. They are vampires! Suddenly a world of the supernatural opens up to Lili and her heart will lead her to help Sam keep his secret identity and defend the city from conflicts begun in ages past.

Destiny is an enjoyable book with a fun take on the vampire genre, full of characters created with affection and care. Lili’s struggle to determine her future and the pressures from home struck a chord with me. She feels the urgency to decide her future and move forward, although the hugeness of the decision overwhelms her.

The American/Australian crossover made me wonder through the tale about the author’s origins, but I think I know. Some telling word choice clued me in. I loved hearing about life in Melbourne and all the interesting trips the characters took nearby. Though some of Melbourne’s history appears in the book, I would have like to learn more.

I appreciated the potential for the tale to discuss the subject of abuse. I think that young women, especially, need reinforcement that abuse is real, encouragement that they don’t have to endure it, and illustrations of what it really looks like. Plenty of speakers and nonfiction writers share about abuse, but tales of people enduring and overcoming it reach us in a different, sometimes more personal way.

Lili wonders through the tale why she isn’t scared that Sam is a vampire. I know why: it’s because none of the vampires in this book are the slightest bit scary. Romance and good looks trump blood-drinking. Any slip of the teeth is slight and polite to the extent that Claire never once discovers their identity. Even the scenes that should be thrilling and terrifying lose their teeth because of the detached and passive way the author describes them. My take is that the trouble lies in the author’s unwillingness to make the characters suffer. She loves them too much. Any problem is short and quickly resolved without the pain that blood-drinking romantic interests should pose.

Aside from the pressured calm of the tale, I enjoyed the book and look forward to the second book in the trilogy to find the answers to the problems that Lili hasn’t solved yet.

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The End of the World Sucks by Sharon Trembley

The End of the World Sucks

by Sharon Trembley

Genre: Fantasy

Vanna is a young, intelligent woman hard at work surviving the zombie apocalypse. By hard at work, I mean washing laundry. What? Stuck in the makeshift washroom at a local college/makeshift fortress, Vanna relies on the guys with guns to protect her from the walking dead. Unfortunately that means she has to wash their dirty clothes obey their lazy, critical mamma. The two families with the most votes in the group, the Cornfields and the Russos, are not in agreement about who should get what, when. Neither are concerned about fairness. Waiting for hunky Marines to helicopter in and save her isn’t getting Vanna very far. The peace is fraying and the greed is growing among the holdouts. When Thanos the vampire arrives, things just get more complicated.

I was fascinated by this book. I loved the main character and her critical but fair point of view and her deep desire for peace and understanding despite all the awful circumstances she encounters. I wanted to see her escape the bad guys and get to safety.

Thanos was both intriguing and repelling. I kind of wanted him to find what he wanted among the humans because he was such a great contrast. He looked like a teen and had the young guy perverted side, but he was an ancient vampire. He liked Vanna and respected the other humans and wanted to help them…or did he?

The Prologue with its foul old man language was a bit of a turnoff, but the rest of the book was filled with realistic, complicated problems and much less swearing.  Sharon thought about every challenge that would face a group of random strangers united in battle against walking death, and she didn’t always choose the most obvious solution. Greed, sadism, nepotism, theft, rape, murder, and blood drinking all have a place in the truly sucky end of the world. Sharon paints them well through Vanna’s honest perspective.

It sounds like this was just the first book of more of Vanna’s adventures. If it is, I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for the next one.

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