Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Stray by Rachel Vincent

Batcave Library is a blog about the many, many, MANY books that I read.  Inspired by the 30 Day Book Challenge on Facebook, I feel that there are so many more books I could commemorate or eviscerate.  I intend to do my own review of what ever I have happened to read and since I read so much - well, the blog should get updated quite regularly. 

The first book to be reviewed is not a book I love.  Or even like.

'Stray' by Rachel Vincent has a blurb that reads thusly...

I look like an all-American grad student. But I am a werecat, a shape-shifter, and I live in two worlds.
Despite reservations from my family and my Pride, I escaped the pressure to continue my species and carved out a normal life for myself. Until the night a Stray attacked.
This brush with danger was all my Pride needed to summon me back... for my own protection. Yeah, right. But I'm no meek kitty. I'll take on whatever and whoever--I have to in order to find my friends. Watch out, Strays--'cause I got claws, and I'm not afraid to use them...
Now, for all intents and purposes, doesn't this sheila sound awesome? No.  I.  Hate.  This.  Book.  
Strong words from a bibliophile, but they are well deserved.  I wonder, with trash like this taking up valuable printing space, why the hell I can't get published.  So instead, I would like to register my vote for the Most Irritating Character Of The Year.  The heroine (and I use this term so very loosely) should -should- appeal to me on nearly every level, and yet somehow, epically fails.  I learned this, the hard way.  Now admittedly, the plot idea is solid, a kick-arsery woman, book lover and a bit of a smart arse finds herself in quite a bit of trouble and all of a sudden they are after her. 

And yet.

And yet, Vincent manages to take what should be the new century's answer to Buffy and turns her into a whining, selfish bitch.  Some bitchery in our heroines is okay.  It's not good to have Little Goody Two Shoes running around in every novel. At the same time it is a delicate balance that has to be treated with care.  If the reader does not ultimately care about the character, then what do they care about the consequences of their actions?  Their redemption, their crisis overcome? 

The reasons for my affrontery have been outlined below, in handy numbered point form.  Bear with me.  There are lots of them. 

1. Faythe (a more ironically named character I have yet to encounter, the spelling of which always made me think of her as 'Faithie' regardless of her age) is a were-cat which should automatically put her in the Kick-Arse Female category. She is also one of only eight single were-females in the US. With only seven other girls to compete with amongst hundreds of sexy, powerful, heroic men, all of whom her Daddy would be pleased to see her bring home, her life is such a drag!
What. A. Dilemma. Which leads me to...
2. As an un-partnered female (or Tabby) she is expected to bear children to one of these numerous Adonis (Adonises? Adonii?) and boost the population, hoping to pop out a few girls. Now, on this one point I am willing to concede that Faythe (oh forgive me for agreeing with the mutton-headed woman) has the right idea. What sane woman wants to be a baby-making machine? But, my darling readers, have these people never
heard of artificial insemination? IVF babies? Seriously, these people live on a ranch.
3. The direct result of this is that Faythe stomps her pretty little foot and takes herself off to University in order to gain independance from her constricting family. This is where I completely lose faith in Faythe - about page three. Does she go off to get her Business degree? Law? Finger Painting? No. She studies Literature. Which is all well and good (after all, I did the same) but for a woman who wants nothing more than to get out of her family's benevolent but suffocating clutches, it is hardly going to help put food in her belly and fashionably up-to-date clothing on her butt.
4. Her degree, her accommodations and all her expenses are paid for out of Daddy's seemingly bottomless pocket. Yes, Daddy is a wealthy tycoon of some unspecified business venture. Daddy takes care of everything. Her mother is a homemaker and immediately dismissed by Faythe as some sort of traitor to the whole idea of post-modernistic feminism because she likes to cook and look after her kids. So when Faythe
finishes the degree her family grudgingly allowed her to undertake (a huge step in itself for such a culturally Patriarchal society), she undertakes her masters without telling anyone, letting the bill for her tuition do all the talking.  This is what we would call A Lie. Yet it comes as a rude shock to her, that when she does undertake this course of action without Daddy's knowledge or consent, he throws a fit. Since it is his money she is squandering on a degree that will not really account for much unless she becomes a University Professor, (except she shows no aptitude or ambition to become one) he has every right to flip his lid.  As far as I understand it, she doesn't try to supplement her income by taking on a part time job during her studies either.
5. She strolls into a dark alley one evening (On purpose! WTF!), is subsequently mugged (Ta-daaaaa!) and is overwhelmingly ungrateful when Marc (a one-time shag and unendingly patient gentleman) saves her cute butt and takes her home.  He and a few others have been watching her on orders of her father (who also, coincidentally, happens to be the Pride's Alpha) when they could have been out doing other things - like their jobs perhaps, instead of babysitting the self-centred and unrepentant Faythe.
6. The reason for the abrupt visit home is that someone has been kidnapping and killing the Tabbies. Instead of feeling grateful for the timely rescue, Faythe throws a tanty worthy of a tweenie with her scrunchie in a twist.

Keep in mind this all happens before page twenty. I warned you.

7. In retaliation, Faythe flirts with any man not related to her. Except Marc. You know, the one who has treated her with respect and consideration from day one? He puts up with her every bitch and whine and nag but all she wants to do is get it on with the guy(s) who only want the keys to her chastity belt. Figuratively speaking of course.  Faythe makes a point of strolling around nude (in her father's office no less!) in order to tease every non-blood relation male in the vicinity.  There are lots of those.
8. After the death of a Tabby close to Faythe, they all get roaringly drunk in their grief, Marc comforts Faythe and they end up in bed together. Horrified at her apparent lack of judgement - yes, this is when she decides that she may have done the wrong thing - Faythe tries to run away from home.


Never mind that there is a killer cat out there targeting what is left of the Tabby population in the United States (ie about five at this point). On the verge of leaving, in a truck she stole the keys to without a grain of remorse, she sits in the cab, with the front gate wiiiiiiide open and finally attaches brain to spinal cord. In her moment of epiphany (Talking? You mean conversing? Instead of arguing? What a novel notion!) she gets kidnapped. Surprise!

Seriously, have you ever met a book with a more irritating protagonist? To top it off, it's all written in first person, so all the I, I, I, Me, Me, Mes make her whingeing so much worse than should be possible. The cherry on top?  The cover is a picture of a woman's back with bare midriff and serious potential for a muffin top in later life.

If you thought all that was bad, brace yourself - there are a further five follow up books in this series, with darling Faithie in the lead.

This makes me want to cry.

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