Friday, July 25, 2014

Review: High Stakes - Brandy Schillace

High Stakes by Brandy Schillace
Series: The Jacob Maresbeth Chronicles #1
Genre: YA, paranormal, comedy
Published on April 1, 2014
Published by Cooperative Press
Pages: 142
Read From: 7.10.14 - 7.15.14

"I'm not a vampire," insists Jacob Maresbeth, teenage journalist for the school paper. But what is a vampire, really? What happens if you have all the right symptoms, but are a living, breathing sixteen-year-old boy? 
Diagnosed with a rare disease, Jake can't help but wonder. After eight years in and out of the Newport News hospital, he's had it up to here with doctors, diseases, and dishonesty. After all, Jake's father, respected neurologist Franklyn Maresbeth, has been hiding some of his more unusual symptoms for years. . . .particularly that part about drinking blood. 
In High Stakes, Jake records his summer vacation in the home of his maiden aunt, the bangled and bespectacled Professor Sylvia. If that isn't bad enough (and it is), Jake and his theatre-loving sister Lizzy must keep the "unofficial" details of Jake's disorder a secret from Aunt Sylvia's seductively beautiful graduate student, Zsofia. Will Jake survive a whole month pretending to be an invalid? Will Zsofia weaken his resolve with her flirtatiously dangerous Hungarian accent? Will Jake lose his heart - in more ways than one?


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? I do love the cover art. It's dark and intriguing and Gothic. Love it!

Characters: Jacob is very entertaining, very likable guy protagonist. We get to know him best, through his hilarious narration. He had me laughing the whole time. Aunt "Syl" was bursting with personality, with her obsession in playing the nursemaid and her overly loud presence. There were three characters I would have liked to have gotten to know better: Jacob's sister Lizzy, Zsofia, and Aunt Syl's other intern who also happens to like Zsofia. I could tell they all had lots of personality, but I didn't get to know they as well as I wanted to. Zsofia made sense, since getting to know her is kind of part of the plot. But even so, it would have been nice to know even her a little better.

The Romance: Jacob has a big crush of Zsofia, and he's going to try his hardest to get her to notice him. I admittedly don't like adolescent crushes, but in this case it was amusing.

Plot: Jacob has a rare blood disorder, which requires him to have a very strict diet and to take blood transfusions on a regular basis. At least, that's what he tells everyone. In reality, the blood isn't for transfusions - it is his special diet. But Jake isn't a vampire - or so he tries to convince himself. He doesn't go around biting people, he's not allergic to sunlight, and he doesn't only come out at night (though he is most awake then). Even so, it's important that no one finds out about his rare condition. So when he and his sister Lizzy go to stay with their Aunt Sylvia for the summer, Jacob knows it's going to be just an absolute blast (not). Aunt Syl is dying to take care of her invalid nephew, and Lizzy is having way too much fun making up all kinds of untrue things about his illness. Then Jake meets Zsofia, Aunt Syl's gorgeous Hungarian graduate student. Who happens to be doing a paper on the history and lore of vampires. The concept of High Stakes was awesome. I'm no vampire fiction lover, but I did really like the cleverness of this story. We're given a witty protagonist, the plausible struggles of having to live a modern life with such problems - and not letting anyone find out about it. And then there's the mystery of Zsofia, who certainly isn't everything she seems. The problem? High Stakes was way, way too short. The Author gives us some very memorable characters, but we don't get to know them as well as we would like to. The plot follows a very day-to-day linear style, but the opportunities the Author has to explore more of Jake's condition are skimmed over. For instance, Jake at one point gets his hands on The Vampire Bible, which is essentially a user's guide for new vampires. But Readers are only given a cursory look into it; not many details. Jake doesn't do any exploring around his aunt's house or anything. So there's very little sense of scenery/setting. It was all just too fast.

Believability: Not applicable.

Writing Style: First person, past tense. Jake was a great narrator; he was hilarious and added a lot to the story. There were quite a few spelling/grammatical errors, but not so much that it took away from the writing.

Content: None.

Conclusion: The climax was very exciting and intense, which almost made up for the too hurried plot. I knew a split second before it was revealed what Zsofia's secret was, but the realization just made it better. High Stakes is a fun read. The Reader is left wondering: Does Jacob just have a weird and rare illness? Or is he really a vampire? I'm still not entirely certain myself. It has good characters, but it's a story that has a lot of unrealized potential. I hope that changes with future installments, because it has an overall great concept.

Recommended Audience: Guy-and-girl read, sixteen-and-up, fans of vampires, clever paranormal, and comedy.

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