Tag Archives: vampires

Playing Catch-Up

Tap and Gown – Diana Peterfreund

Just as promised, Amy finally stopped acting like an idiot about her kidnapping in this book.  But it took her way too long to stop acting like an idiot about her relationship with Jamie.  I did not love-love-love this the way I did the earlier books in the series, but it also didn’t make me angry like those books sometimes did.  I think I’m ready to move on from Amy, but am very happy that as I do, I have a soon-to-be-released YA book of Peterfreund’s to look forward to.  I think, like Fire below, that my passionate crush on this series did this volume in it no favors.

Fragile Eternity – Melissa Marr

I don’t think I ever recorded here the related novel in this series, Ink Exchange, which I really liked.  But I loved this one and Wicked Lovely.  The plot goes to surprising places and I didn’t even mind that the budding romance of the first book was no longer as budding or romantic (which allowed the plot to move forward and the relationship to mature).  If I ever read another modern Fairie story again it’ll just be because I’m chasing after the appeal of this one.

Fire – Kristin Cashore

I know I’m pretty much alone in liking Graceling more, but I keep reminding people that it’s only because of how much of a crush I have on that book and not because this isn’t a stronger book.  I agree that this probably is.  And it tackles the male gaze, which is one of my favorite things ever to think about.  But I love the way that Cashore writes banter and sexual tension and those were missing from this book.  So I’ll just anxiously await whatever bits of Katsa and Po I’m given in her next book.

Once was Lost – Sara Zarr

I don’t personally find faith interesting, but I find Zarr interesting enough to go along for the ride when she explores it.

Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins

I’m sad that the first book in the series lived up to my expectations but this couldn’t handle the pressure.  I didn’t hate it, or even dislike it, I just hate that I only liked it.  The spoilery text of an email I sent to a friend in white text:

But one of my biggest frustrations with Catching Fire was the pacing of her “radicalization.”  That she was intuitive enough to read intention into the timing of the gifts she was receiving in the arena, but not to understand that her pin had become a symbol of the resistance.  And that an organized resistance was clearly forming but that it took her until the end to see it.  And I didn’t buy that the resistance would trust using her without her knowledge to go well, when that clearly didn’t work out for the government the first time around.  I did like the way she adjusted to the arena, that she realized things were going on that she didn’t understand and went with it.  I just felt more manipulated by the plotting of this story than the first one.

Lips Touch: Three Times – Laini Taylor

This book had the great premise of three fairytale love/forbidden desire stories that hinge on a kiss  and ended up being so much better than I expected while not really fulfilling the promise of the hook.  Another instance where David Levithan lied to me (I’m writing this bottom-up, see the review below) but I’m happier this time to have listened to him anway.  And as much as like Jim Di Bartolo’s illustrations, I don’t like the cover design.  Because it’s a much more serious, even grown-up, book than it seems.  And yes, each story in some way revolves around a kiss and the manifestation of physical desire, but I often related more to the other wishes and dreams of the characters.  The third story is an epic love story crammed into 110 pages that improbably has you siding with the evil witch-type by the end.  I’m not entirely sure how that narrative flip was even accomplished, but it was very skillful.  The first two stories have their charms, but the last is the one that really wowed me.  I don’t know if I’ve ever bought myself a real copy of a book after having read the ARC, but in this instance I might just for the illustrations.

Shiver – Maggie Stiefvater

Ultimately, I don’t think I liked this book.  At Day of Dialog, David Levithan swore up and down that this book transcended the otherworldly creatures (werewolves in this case) genre but I don’t think it does.  I think it was just okay with hints of being something wonderful.  Maybe someone else will read this and see what I’m missing.  There’s another story of doomed love that this reminds me of, but I can’t figure out what. *UPDATE.  The Universe just handed this to me on a plate: The Time Traveler’s Wife. It’s got the same “when will he disappear..possibly forever” tension.* It is very moody and atmospheric, but I never became fully invested in it.

Ash – Malinda Lo

Other than the lesbian love story aspect of this, it’s a pretty traditionally told Cinderella story.  The Fairy Godfather is actually a tricky, non-altruistic fairy, and it’s here and with the love story, where Lo carves her own space, that the book is the most successful.

Juliet, Naked – Nick Hornby

Technically this book has no business being here, as it has zero teen appeal, but I really enjoyed it.  And will stretch and say that it explores the flip side of the “Nick and Norah” music-obsessed-teen coin.  But it’s all about being a grown up, the disapointments and compromises and joys, and how not even a rock star can escape that.  This is the first Hornby book in years that I’ve enjoyed as much as I wanted to.

Scott Pilgrim vs.the Universe – Brian Lee O’Malley

I didn’t mind that Scott’s life kind of falls apart during this volume, I guess I’m turning into a cold-hearted grown up who didn’t expect his slacker lifestyle to be sustainable.  The cover is also very shiny and pretty.

Gregor the Overlander and Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane – Suzanne Collins

I’d been interested in this series ever since reading Hunger Games, but didn’t want to read a library copy because the paperback is both cheaply printed and very popular.  So I finally bought my own copy and once I’d finished, went out and immediately bought the second, which I read in one sitting.  I think the strength of these is Gregor.  He’s really likeable and resourceful.  And if too many of the books in this roundup feature kids who are destined to save the world, having a character who doesn’t act too stupid about the whole thing helps the over-used conceit go down easier.  I’m a little bit worried, and will have to be careful not to get too spoilery, that Collins may rely to heavily on formula with her plots.  These two books both follow similar arcs and this worry of mine is related to the aspect of Catching Fire that I wasn’t too impressed by.  I really wish these were collected in one volume, something with higher quality paper, so that you could easily read the whole saga in one go.

Blackbringer (Dreamdark) – Laini Taylor

I’m upset because I thought the sequel to this was already out but will instead have to wait until September for it.  So while that’s lame, I really enjoyed the story.  I like the way it maintained internal logic really well, how the strength of the god character was used to trick it, how the evil character was as much an important part of fairy history as anyone, how it feels like a complete story while making you want more, and how it might have the first fairy world I’d actually want to live in.  It would be really easy for me to talk about appreciating this book for all of the pitfalls it avoided, but that’s not very exciting.  This books seems to have initially been marketed as middle grade but then as YA for the paperback edition.  Which is funny, because I think it’s an easy sell to adults as well.

Review: Marked

Marked: House of Night – P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

Zoey lives in a world where vapirism isn’t inflicted upon you, it’s just something that randomly manifests itself during some kids’ teen years.  Vampyres are the most famous, charming and talented people around, but they’re also feared and treated like freaks.  When  Zoey is marked as a vampyre she immediately leaves her old life behind and moves to the house of night, a boarding school where you are trained and either turn into a full-fledged “vamp” or you die.  But before she can get there, she gets an extra mark, from the goddess of night that they worship.  It singles her out as a possibly powerful new force, making her enemies and possible allies.  And other than drinking blood and not liking to go out during the day, the vampyres are much more like witches (the modern, Wiccan conception of it) than they are vampires.

I hate to bite the hand that feeds me (and supplied me with a free review copy of this book) but this really wasn’t any good at all.  I can see the appeal to a younger teen, there are elements of an interesting story here, but it’s really just no good.  It’s common for vampire stories to be an exploration of fears about female sexuality, but this book just reinforces those fears in a weird way.  There is a lot of slut-shaming and the use of someone’s sexuality as a weapon against them.  There is a lot of talk about gay acceptance, but it’s always framed in a way that shows that while the characters accept their gay friend it’s in part because he doesn’t hang out with any of the other gay students.  Those boys are all too faggy feminine, which is gross and wrong and luckily Damien’s not like that!  And of all the “bad” things that happen throughout the course of the book, the most scarring to Zoey is an almost blow job she witnesses at the beginning of the book:

Yes, I was aware of the whole oral sex thing.  I doubt if there’s a teenager alive in America today who isn’t aware that most of the adult public think we’re giving guys blow jobs like they used to give guys gum (or maybe more appropriately suckers).  Okay that’s just bullshit, and it’s always made me mad.  Of course there are girls who think it’s “cool” to give guys head. Uh, they’re wrong.  Those of us with fuctioning brains know that it is not cool to be used like that.

She seriously never shuts up about it.  But I think the above paragraph kind of shows how the authors are trying hard to be both purient and preachy.  For a book with such a squeaky-clean, sex-negative viewpoint there is a lot of cursing.  Which I have no problem with, if used well.  But all of the “fucks” in this book were just weird.  Especially when Zoey also says “poopie” a lot.

I don’t generally worry about what parents will think when I give kids books.  Working in a public library in a liberal city, I’m lucky that way.  But I don’t know of any parent who might read this book and find it appropriate.  Conservative or religious families would find the Goddess-worship and religion-bashing upsetting, liberal families would find the tone-deaf use of minorities (besides the homosexual weirdness Zoey’s Native American, and it’s not necessary or handled in a non-stereotypical manner at all), sexuality and thin fetishization offensive.  It’s writing and plot are best suited for younger teens, but the content is often more mature than that.

To me this is the exact opposite of the Vampire Academy series. The plot of which is more twisted and fun, and the romance is well, more twisted and fun.  The “bad mother” plotline is meatier (she’s a fierce warrior who didn’t want to sacrifice her independence to raise her daughter, vs a weak woman who stopped caring about her kids when she married a fundamentalist) and the questions about sexuality are actually interesting.

Review: City of Bones

City of Bones – Cassandra Clare

Clary thinks she’s a normal girl living in a normal world until she starts seeing violent people and things that don’t make any sense.  It also doesn’t make much sense to anyone else in this urban fairytale because normal humans, “mundanes,” shouldn’t be able to see the fey or the demons that move through the world.  But it doesn’t take long for Clary and the demon hunting “Shadowhunters” she falls in with to realize that Clary isn’t a normal girl and everything she thought she knew about her family was a lie.  So obviously the group of teens decides it’s up to them to go up against the ultimate big-bad and retrieve their society’s most sacred object.  And of course things go wrong at every turn because their plan is stupid and misguided.  But if they’d actually talked to any adults, they might have realized that.

Lots of teens here love this series and the hints I’d heard of sexy incest made me want to give it a chance. I was sort of underwhelmed. I think it’s for a younger audience than it looks like and definitely not the 14+ that I’ve seen in reviews.  Sexy incest or no, ’cause it’s not that sexy.  There’s romance and action, but also a lot of stupid plotting and too much telling with not enough showing.  And maybe if I was 11 I wouldn’t have figured out all of the “surprising” plot elements well before the characters, sometimes hundreds of pages before the characters.  The bad guy is a little bit of Voldemort a lot a bit of Darth Vader, and he’s not the only thing that feels derivative.  Despite myself, I kind of want to know what happens in the rest of the series.

Review: Shadow Kiss

Shadow Kiss – Richelle Mead

This is the third book in the Vampire Academy series and is the thickest and plot-heaviest.  Lots of plots and machinations and a trip to the Vampire Court.  It also continued to be much more about Rose than the first book in the series, which is good since she is clearly the most interesting character (though the Chuck Bass-like Adrien is pretty engaging in this book).  Her best friend and Vampire Royal, Lissa, (who she will be charged with protecting once they graduate) may turn out to be powerful and influential, but she’s pretty boring.  The sexual tension with Dimitri is as fun as it was in the first book, though.

This series is doing a good job of writing distinct stories that fit in within a larger narrative.  The big stuff, like teaching the Moroi to fight for themselves and changing the status of Dhampirs in society is all advancing, but at the end of each book, something has been resolved.  And at the end of this book, everything has changed.  I pre-ordered the fourth part from Amazon as soon as I was finished because I am that anxious to find out what happens next.

At the end of the last book, Rose proved herself to be as good of a fighter in reality as she believed herself to be at school.  But she is also headstrong and immature and as a reader you can both understand why adults would try to restrain her but also trust her.  This book is very good with the tension between her wanting to do things her way but then understanding that while she is right, there is a better way to do things than by herself.  And when she’s right and has a plan, she’s listened to.  And when she’s right, but sounds crazy because she’s saying a ghost told her to do it, the people who trust her the most listen to her once she gathers evidence that she’s not just crazy.

It also has the most mature examination of the power structures of the vampire world and when Rose begins to question her place in that world, it’s believable.  And so are the consequences of that questioning.

Yeah, these books are kind of “trashy” but not as bad as their covers suggest (ugh, I hate the last two covers) and they’re ultimately really solid and engaging.  I like it when my fun is skillfully and intellegently done.

Review: Vamps

Vamps – Nancy A Collins

Despite how gross this cover looks, I felt it was my duty to read this society-girl-vampires-in-New-York-City book.  Especially after being so dissapointed by the third installment of Blue Bloods.  And you know, I really enjoyed it.  It didn’t over-rely on its concept, but added in some new stuff along with it’s borrowing liberally from older stories. 

New York’s high society is dominated by vampires who were summoned from Hell a long, long time ago and who duked it out for control of the world.  The suriving lines have been living together and fighting amongst themselves ever since.  They reproduce like humans, and don’t live forever but for much longer than normal.  Those whose blood they suck become their undead and immortal servants.  The descendents of Van Helsing are still tracking and killing them, though they have more luck with the undead than actual vampires.  Members of families whose power has been usurped may either become servents of the more powerful family or outcast New Bloods.  Half-breeds are the children of an Old Blood and a New Blood, and there aren’t many as all education and socializing is segregated.  Cally has been passing herself off this way, when really her father is an unknown and powerful Old Blood and her mother is human.  The Van Helsings want her on their side because her Grandmother was an employee and witch and her vampire blood will allow her to pass and massacre the vampires.  But the scion of the Van Helsing line falls for her and can’t help but be up front about their intentions for her.  And she doesn’t know who her father is yet, but he’s paid for her entry into an exclusive school where she’s already made powerful enemies and unknowingly exposed her identity to her rival.

And it’s all really fun.  If you can imagine yourself watching this if it were on the CW, you’ll probably like the book.

Review: Twilight (the movie)

Vampire Baseball

Vampire Baseball

Is it possible to have unconflicted feelings about the Twilight juggernaut?  I was lucky to have read the first two books before it was on the cultural radar at large, and could enjoy them for what they were without feeling like I was making a statement.  And also criticize them without feeling like I was joining in on the piling on that didn’t acknowledge their appeal.  So I hate/love the books and find discussion of them endlessly fascinating. 

And so I took my husband to go see the film with me it’s second weekend (he kind of liked it, so I don’t feel too guilty).

And I think I unreservedly loved it.  It’s ridiculous and over-the-top and lots of fun, unlike the over-long book, contains no descriptive passages.  Bella is a little clutzy, but is no longer Bella-the-Clutz.  She never gets to talk about how undeserving of Edward she is, and the actress is charismatic and attractive enough to give the character some, well,  character.  Playing Edward as a manic-depressive dick was the exact right choice, and it was the first time I ever found myself attracted to him (I also had a weird dream that night about Veronica Mars being Bella Swan and maybe finding out that Edward had been cheating on her with me?).  It kept a lot of what is compelling about Meyer’s storytelling and cut out a lot of what’s obnoxious.  I’m not ready to go as far as having any confidence that the same can be done with the mope fest that is New Moon, or that the actor playing Jacob can carry that film like he does the book, but I have more hope about it than I have any right to.

Review: Revelations

Revelations (Blue Bloods Bk 3) – Melissa De la Cruz

In the past, I’d enjoyed this series for its interesting vampire mythology, that the elite movers-and-shakers running this country were constantly reicarnating fallen angels trying to get back into God’s good graces. So while on the surface, these are vapid socialites, really it’s Michael and Gabriel (uncorrupted but sent to help them) and Abadon and whovever else. They suck blood from humans, but responsibly. From what I hazily remember, their presence in America goes back to the Roanoke colony where they were masacred by Croatan, but not the Indian tribe? Some kind of terrible soul-sucking thing. And some of the fallen angels say screw heaven and so there’s been war for hundreds of years between the two factions. And it’s all so byzantine that I can never make sense of what’s going on from book to book and there isn’t really any recap, clumsy or otherwise. It also gets annoying that the teen-aged characters are treated like teenagers, even though they’re angels (and vampires) like their “parents.” Also, that they act like moody and irresponsible teenagers. The thrills and high concept fun had pretty much entirely evaporated for me by the time I reached the end of this book, even though Lucifer finally shows up. Maybe a few years from now when the series is finished, I’ll go back and see if it makes sense as a whole.