A Brush With Vampires by Betsy Flak - SPFBO 2020 Book Review

Write on: Wed, 01 Jul 2020 by  in SPFBO 2020 Read 4816

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*I was assigned this book for SPFBO 2020*

Fans of Rachel Mead's Vampire Academy or Stephanie Myers' Twilight series will probably enjoy this book. It follows the story of Lila, a sophomore in high school attending a boarding school for the first time, and Gabe, a senior in high school and a vampire hunter. 

Sometimes SPFBO is luck of the draw. I wouldn't say I'm a YA paranormal fan (although I have read the above-mentioned series' and for the most part enjoyed them for what they were). I do enjoy aspects of the genre, but in recent years have strayed from reading too much of it due to a flooding of the market with cheap knock offs of the same story. I was curious about this book when I saw it was assigned to me. In many ways it was exactly what I expected - ordinary girl has supernatural powers she doesn't know about, meets gorgeous guy who is hiding a secret. I wasn't thrown off by the cliche, but I did find myself disappointed in many ways. But I'll get to that later. 

First, what I feel like the book did well. The villain was my favorite character - Kane is a vampire leading a group of other vampires, and they need to keep their anonymity to avoid the attention of vampire hunters, and to keep their hunting grounds fresh. They travel from place to place trying to not cause too much stir. She has some unique talents. She has a power that allows her to avoid detection by hiding her powers from the hunters. She also has a ghost-type projection who talks to her and gives her sage advice (insert sardonic emphasis on the word sage). Kane comes across as the right amount of creepy with the right amount of intrigue and empathy. She has trouble leading her crew, and her power is challenged by Fang, a young and immature vampire who doesn't like the way she does things. 

I also liked the writing style, for the most part. It was straight to the point, and didn't have too much purple prose. Although, there was a fair amount of angst mixed with dreamy staring at dark, tall Gabe with his eyes and hair. But that's to be expected. The book was well-edited and free of annoying grammatical or spelling errors that can slow reading and make for hiccups in flow of the narrative. My one major complaint with the writing was the 49,203 times (okay that's an exaggeration) when Lila's bf calls her "Lila dear." I feel like that phrase could have been cut down significantly. Every time she spoke to Lila, that is how she referred to her. It made the character quite grating (among other things).

I know that my main complaints won't necessarily stop readers from picking this book up, especially the target audience. However, I was disappointed by the lack of coherent plot, and the story was mostly wrapped in the goings-on at the boarding school. Lila was a stiff main character whose insecurity made her hard to relate to. She let her supposed best friend push past her boundaries time and again, treat her like crap, and force her to be someone she wasn't. I feel that type of message isn't a great one, and would have enjoyed her character a lot more if part of her arc was learning to stand up for herself and not let her friend push those boundaries so hard. However, this book is first in a series and ended quite abruptly with no real resolution, so perhaps this happens throughout the series.  

Because the plot had little structure, it was hard to understand where the book was going. I couldn't pick out what the main idea was. Friendship? Facing your demons? Those ideas flitted around the book at times, but didn't land solid enough for me to grasp. Once the plot started to gain traction, the book ended. 

This wasn't a terrible read. And I'm sure many, many readers will enjoy it more than I did. I feel that with a little refining, the author can flesh out the characters like she did with Kane, and maybe with a developmental editor, form a more cohesive plot and theme. And as mentioned above, fans of the genre will more than likely enjoy this story; so if you like Rachel Mead and Stephanie Myers, maybe give this story a shot. There are several more books in the series, which I'm sure will add an appeal to fans who don't want to wait for the next release. 


By day Janelle is a nurse, mother to two autistic sons, and writer. By night, she's immersed in other worlds. Reading fantasy is her happy place. And drinking wine. And eating tacos. 

Grab her flintlock fantasy series The Rodasia Chronicles, or her epic fantasy series The Steward Saga on Amazon.