Tiger's Curse (Book 1) - Colleen Houck Well, I had trouble deciding between 2 and 3 stars on this one. I feel like 2 stars seems harsh, but 3 is too many. It would probably be like a 2.5, but I'm rounding it down because ... I'm a mean person, I guess. This book did have some redeeming qualities, but over all it was just kinda "meh" for me. When I started reading this, I thought it was pretty good. It was a unique and interesting premise, with an unusual setting. And Kelsey seemed like a decent protagonist at first. But, then the plot started to get a bit ridiculous and too focused on romance, and the writing started to bug me, and Kelsey became annoying, and ... about halfway through, I was starting to consider giving up. And I hardly give up on books. But, ultimately, I just didn't find this book all that interesting. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't fantastic either.So, here's the story in a nutshell:Once upon a time, there was a girl named Kelsey. One summer, she gets a job feeding animals at a circus because she's quirky like that. The circus has a white tiger named Ren, whom she thinks is totally awesome. She starts hanging out near Ren's cage and reading him poetry and stuff.Then this old guy named Mr. Kadam notices she likes the tiger, and he's like, "HEY, I JUST MET YOU. AND THIS IS CRAZY. BUT YOU LIKE THAT TIGER. SO RANDOMLY TAKE HIM TO INDIA WITH ME, MAYBE." And even though she doesn't know this guy at all really, she decides to trust him because he's ... "grandfatherly." (Like, that's actually the reason she gives.) And her guardian-parents are like, "Haha sure thing! Go off to a foreign country with this strange man!" So she does.Once she gets to India, Mr. Kadam ditches her and Ren with a random truck driver, who takes them to a restaurant. Kelsey goes in to eat food. When she comes out, she finds that the truck driver has vanished ... and that Ren has been let out of his cage and is now just sitting there next to the road. He then leads her into the jungle ... where he suddenly turns into a PERSON! And not just a person, but a TOTALLY HAWT GUY. And he's all like, "So yeah, I had to lead you into this jungle. And I had to be a tiger when I did it. Because since you're a sensible person, you trust tigers and like to follow them into jungles. Because ... this was the obvious way I had to tell you that I was secretly a person." (Okay, I can't really explain the logic of this situation, obviously. I didn't really get it, either.)Well anyway, it turns out Ren is a prince––and he and his brother were cursed to turn into tigers like three hundred years ago. Except they can just switch between being tigers and people when it's convenient, so it's not that big a deal. I mean, they can't stay in human form for too long, but still. So, there's all this stuff about a prophecy and whatnot. Ren and Kelsey have to travel through the jungle for some reason ... I honestly wasn't entirely sure what for. They're looking for some way to break the curse, but ... yeah. It was kind of confusing and unclear. Of course they also fall in insta-love and ... well, there you have it. Okay, so I think this book had two major redeeming qualities:The settingI thought the setting in India was a unique and refreshing aspect of the story. It gave the book a pretty solid atmosphere. It was obvious that Colleen Houck had done her research, and there were a lot of great details about the scenery, the food, the customs, the mythology etc. So, I really appreciated the effort she put into that.KishanKishan, Ren's brother, was a good character––in my humble opinion, anyway. To be honest, I found him much more compelling than Ren. He seemed like a charming and funny guy, first of all. Secondly, I liked that he actually didn't want to break the curse and gave a logical explanation as to why. After centuries of dealing with it, he was used to it––and had actually embraced his tiger-form and enjoyed being in it. And, as I was saying before, I don't actually think the curse is all that bad. Sure, the brothers have to be tigers sometimes, but not all the time. Plus, they get to be immortal. And after having to go along with it for so long, I'd think it wouldn't be so bad to just accept it. So, I thought Kishan's perspective was interesting and gave the story a little bit more depth.Not to mention, he actually trusted Kelsey to take care of herself––whereas Ren was annoyingly overprotective of Kelsey, thought she couldn't deal with anything unpleasant, and wanted to be watching her at all times, etc. But of course, Kelsey prefers the asshole brother ... because he's more physically attractive, I guess? So it goes.Unfortunately, neither of these qualities really boosted my liking of the story. Although I appreciated Houck's efforts in those aspects, they were drowned out by several major issues I had:KelseyI didn't like her much. She seemed to think and act like a ten-year-old, and needed Ren to always save her and all that jazz. I think what annoyed me most about her was that Houck seemed to emphasize that Kelsey didn't want to rush things with Ren and that she could be an independent female and whatnot. But then Kelsey was always beating herself up about the fact that she didn't want to rush things. She would always be like, "Gosh, I can't believe I haven't kissed Ren yet. He's so totally hawt and amazing and I'm such an idiot, OMG." So, it seemed to be sending a really mixed message. On one hand, it was like Houck was saying that relationships shouldn't be too rushed. On the other hand, she made it seem like such a bad thing that Kelsey didn't want to rush into a relationship with a totally hawt guy. And then of course, she'd always be whining about how she was so plain and boring, and how could Ren like her, and yada yada. Just ... meh. I've seen it all before, and I've never liked that type of protagonist. The romanceWell, as I said, I didn't like how Houck sent such a mixed message about the pacing of the relationship. But ultimately, I thought it was pretty typical insta-love.As soon as Ren appeared as a person, Kelsey commented on how attractive he was––and then never shut up about it for the rest of the book. Seriously, she never missed an opportunity to mention how gorgeous Ren is. They'd be like, running for their lives and she'd be like, "And while we were running from certain doom, Ren turned his BEAUTIFUL FACE towards me ..." By the one hundredth time she'd mentioned how beautiful his face was, I just felt like my head would explode. It's like ... okay, woman. I get it. You find him attractive. Please be quiet about it, now.And as I mentioned earlier, Ren was ultimately a controlling and overprotective bastard. I thought he seemed like a nice guy in the beginning, but then halfway through the book he suddenly seemed to develop a split personality. Sometimes he would be totally sweet to Kelsey, and then on the next page he'd be getting furious at her for no good reason. And he'd be all like, "I can't believe you saw me eat an antelope! How dare you! I'm never letting you out of my sight again!" Errrm.Over all, I just didn't see much justification for their relationship, and I didn't see what was supposedly so likable about Ren––besides his occasional niceness and physical attractiveness.... Hmm yeah. I got nothing.IrrelevanciesIn my opinion, too many things were just plain irrelevant to the story and should have been edited out. The first thing was the fact that Kelsey's parents are dead. She just kind of mentioned that they had died in a car accident at the beginning of the book, and a few other times, but over all it just didn't seem that important. It certainly could have been made significant if it had been essential to her character, but I didn't think it was. She still seemed kind of silly and immature, so I didn't see how the tragedy had really affected her. Then there were just some totally random things that happened. For example, there was a scene where Ren and Kelsey went swimming in some waterfall or something ... and then some rocks just fell out of nowhere onto Kelsey's head and knocked her out. Then he dragged her out of the water and she woke up, and ... well, that was pretty much it. It was never really brought up again. Kelsey complained about how her head hurt for a few pages––but neither she nor Ren seemed particularly concerned that she had been severely concussed. So it was like ... uh, why did that happen at all? The writingUrgh, the writing. I just found it to be rather ... juvenile. First of all, the dialogue felt really forced and unnatural––so much that I found it distracting. Pretty much every time Kelsey said something, I almost wanted to reach into the book and punch her in the face. But the most major problem is that Houck really, really needs to learn how to show and not tell. It felt like almost half the book was just stating things that were completely obvious, or blatantly telling the reader what things looked/felt like without using proper descriptions. Not to mention, these "telling" sentences were often followed by exclamation points ... which I hate with a passion. So, I got pretty sick of reading sentences that went, "It was [adjective]!"Just a few snippets to give you an idea of what I mean:"He changed to a tiger, sunk his teeth into them, and ripped them apart. It was gruesome!""They slowly raised their heads out even farther and followed our progress with inky black eyes. I couldn't stop staring at them. They were horrible!""Then I saw a warrior angel rise up above me. He was magnificent!""I raised my eyes and gasped softly. He was breathtaking! So handsome, I wanted to cry. ... He's like ... like James Bond, Antonio Banderas, and Brad Pitt all rolled into one." (Side note: Uh, that doesn't sound very attractive to me at all.)"I sighed. Even infuriated he was beautiful." Oy vey ...I just hope Colleen Houck can learn to trust her readers and not seem to assume they're idiots. Not only that, but it's just weak writing. She could have described what some of these things looked like––like what this random "warrior angel" looked like, what it looked like to see Ren tearing apart monkeys with his teeth (which is what the "gruesome" part was referring to), etc. Just telling the reader with a single adjective doesn't create a very strong image. In fact, it doesn't create an image at all. So hopefully, in the next books, she improved on this. Over all, I think Houck has good ideas with a lot of potential. But ultimately, I didn't find the writing in this book to be strong enough ... and what with the uninteresting heroine and barely-developed romance, it unfortunately became a bit too similar to a lot of other paranormal romances I've read.I don't know if I'll read the other books in the series, but I think it's doubtful. I've heard that the books get better, and I could see how the story could become more interesting ... but, at this point I don't feel particularly intrigued. Guess we'll just have to wait and see. ;)