Saturday, November 14, 2009
This story gets to a slow start as shy Bianca is getting ready to start at a new school, the Evernight Academy, an exclusive boarding school. An only child, she's extremely close to her parents. She's a little relieved that because her mother and father are both academics who have secured teaching positions at the school, so they won't be far. The tone of the book is moody, atmospheric and a bit gothic. However! There is a stupendous twist which changes EVERYTHING a little more than halfway through the book. Everybody you thought was normal: isn't. Everybody who you thought were the good guys? They're really the bad guys. Wow! It's an action-packed adventure after that, as Bianca and her boy-crush Lucas both come to terms with their heritage which, much like Romeo and Juliet, might make their romance impossible. Stick with it through the slow pace of first third of the book (don't cheat by turning directly to page 136!) and you'll be riveted by the end.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
St. Martin's Griffin
Imagine if you were a vampyre... and unlike urban legend, becoming a vampyre isn't transmitted by a bite, it's a natural process that happens to a small percentage of teenagers as they transition to adulthood. The House of Night is a finishing school to help fledgling vampyres negotiate the change they are undergoing. The school sounds more like summer camp and what many teens who don't have the opportunity to have an exclusive boarding school experience might crave: lessons in Equestrian studies, drama, economics and modern English classics with smart, challenging, vampyre teachers who treat their young charges with the independence and respect usually only accorded to successful college students. (They're even allowed to drink beer.)
St. Martin's Griffin
In the second book, new vampyre fledgling Zoey Redbird develops a crush on poetry teacher Loren Blake, and thoughts of love interest Erik Night are pushed to the side as she copes with her bloodlust for human ex-boyfriend Heath. She also struggles to re-define the exclusive prep soriority the Dark Daughters, helps with a police investigation of murdered local teens and copes with the loss of her best friend and confidante Stevie Rae who hasn't make it though the change. And, what's going on with spurned Aphrodite, whose visions are called into question by Zoey's mentor, Neferet? The book is definitely setting up for a sequel with dark hints of an unpleasant destiny for those who don't make the change successfully (they seem to mutate into monsters much more consistent with what we'd think of as traditional vampyres.) The pagan rituals seem well-researched and true to Celtic traditions. The group of vamp teens display a good deal of maturity, I suppose the overwhelming nature of their change would be enough to prevent anyone from taking advantage of the sudden freedoms they are given on the House of Night campus. Zoey is totally boy-crazy, but despite her multiple crushes she still doesn't feel ready to consumate a relationship. A love interest for her gay friend Damien is also briefly included.
by P.C. + Kristin Cast
St. Martin's Griffin
Meanwhile, the world is under siege by Kalona, the leader of the supernatural Raven Mockers. Kalona begins to invade Zoey's dreams, where he lets her know that he believes she is his old love, reincarnated. Zoey is not terribly tempted by his offer to join him. Zoey's former mentor, Neferet, who she's never been close to, is now busy trying to start a vampyre/human war. Being stuck in the tunnels, most of the characters end up coping with issues of privacy -- they are all a little too close for comfort, and in each other's business. The two most interesting developments of this novel were that the now-human Aphrodite seems to have Imprinted on Stevie Rae. And, while Zoey is still indecisive about which boy she likes best, Erik or Heath, she's also newly intrigued by Stark, a red fledgling blessed and/or cursed with supernatural archery powers. The tradition of powerful priestesses having multiple consorts or pledged warriors is explained, and so I wonder if that is how her multiple-boyfriend situation is going to resolve itself. Despite all of this, the pace of this book definitely slows down quite a bit. I felt there was too much exposition, and not enough forward movement in the story. By the fifth book of a series, authors shouldn't feel that they have to explain everything. Have the mother-daughter writing team behind this series lost the plot?
Three "hemovores" (don't call them vampires!) go on a road trip to teach the newest member of their ranks, young redneck Gordon, the finer points of how to survive. Johnny, the leader of the hemovores who runs a safe house for blood-drinkers in Manhattan insists that Cole, who is quite a loner, take on the project of helping Gordon. He's accompanied by the light-hearted Sandor. Cole is tightly controlled, but events unfold to help him come to terms with his own unfortunate mistakes made when he was newly made. Sandor is light-hearted and jolly, and is accidentally responsible for having created Gordon after a mugging. Gordon is having enormous difficulty accepting and dealing with matters, longing to reconnect with his family and girlfriend, and has a lot of trouble seeing past his small-town hickish ways. The vampires -- excuse me, hemovores, must avoid sunlight and must drink human blood. Typically, they are able to hypnotize their victims, and quickly draw a small amount of blood, enabling them to feed without killing. When being taught how to pick suitable targets, Cole and Sandor despair of ever making a proper hemovore of Gordon. Gordon insists on gravitating to cute girls, even when more likely targets are available and taking unnecessary risks. My favorite scene is when Sandor begs Cole to get Gordon a dog - to cheer him up, to make it easier to start small talk with humans (aka omnis), and of course, if he gets desperate, he can always eat the dog! There's a very dark and twisted humor at work here. While I love a good series, Night Road is a stand-alone book, with a highly satisfying ending, but the door could easily be open for a sequel. The writing is tight, with well-thought out characters, pacing and plot. I enjoyed it enormously.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Here's the second offering in the Blue Bloods series. This one veers a bit (only a bit, mind you) from the formula of the first. There's slightly less brand-name dropping in this one, and a little more international intrigue. Schuyler's on the lookout for her grandfather, and she needs a human blood donor. She leans on her friend Oliver, who is (of course) secretly in love with her. Mimi is busy throwing the party of the century, and is eagerly looking forward to "bonding" with her twin brother Jack... who is secretly feeling really not so sure about the whole thing. Lots of confusing stuff about who's related to who... all the vampires are essentially avatars of saints, angels or gods and inter-related in various ways. Jack and Schuyler are kind of being established as a "better" couple than Jack and Mimi... yet, they are first cousins. Bliss is duped by Kingsley, an undercover agent, and is still pining for missing Dylan. Who are the real villains? Who are the Silver Bloods? It's still up in the air.
Who is the Silver Blood murderer??? That's the big question. After the loss of her grandmother, Schuyler Van Alen is forced to live with the Force family, all the while carrying on a secret affair with Jack Force, much to his twin sister Mimi's dismay. Mimi is planning on marrying her brother and then using her hypnotic powers to mind-trick people into thinking that she was always his wife. In the meantime, Schuler's best friend from childhood, Oliver, is head-over-heels for her and his blood bond pretty much makes him her heartbroken slave. I am rooting for Oliver, poor guy. It also turns out that Bliss is the daughter of Lucifer himself and while sleepwalking has committed many crimes! Interesting stuff.
Unfortunately, I haven't gotten the chance to read the fourth and most recently released book in the series, The Van Alen Legacy, but I'm confident that I'll get to it before the end of the year.
I borrowed all of these books from the public library.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
The Vampire Academy series features several different subtypes of vampires. Vampirism is passed on genetically. Moroi tend to be slender and somewhat fragile. They can survive in sunlight, although it does make them very weak. They have to drink human blood every couple of days in order to keep up their strength, but they don't kill in order to do so. Each Moroi has an elemental affinity and is able to wield magic. Dhampirs, on the other hand, are half-human, half-vampire. They are possessed of unusual strength. They can only bear children by Moroi, and their offspring will always be dhampir. Most male dhampirs swear fealty to a particular Morai and protect them as bodyguards. Many female dhampirs take on work as "blood whores" trading sexual services, and donating blood to Moroi for the high that it gives them. Dhampirs are treated by their Moroi counterparts as trusted servants as best, and second class citizens at worst. Finally, the Strigoi are former Moroi who have gone to the dark side. They are immortal, they enjoy killing humans, harassing Moroi, and are recognizable by their pale skin and red-rimmed eyes.
In the first book of the series, Lissa Dragomir and Rose Hathaway return to St. Vladimir's after a two-year absence. Unbeknownst to anyone else, Lissa actually has the very rare elemental ability of "Spirit" allowing her to share a one-way psychic link with her best friend Rose, the dhampir that Lissa hopes will be assigned as her bodyguard when she graduates. Lissa's affinity for Spirit gives her the power to heal and use compulsion, but also subjects her to deep depressions. Sarcastic, funny, dhampir Rose's loyalties are torn between her needy friend Lissa and hunky Dimitri, her fight instructor.
Mead's trinity of vampire races, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, and her inventive return to the Romanian and Russian roots of vampire lore gives us a fresh take on the genre. Rose is a strong character who is struggling to balance duty and friendship.
I enjoyed this follow up in the Vampire Academy series. Dangerous attacks by an unusually well-organized group of Strigoi have the Moroi in a panic. The students decide to hole up in a glamorous ski resort over winter break. Rose must sort through her feelings for her mentor Dimitri, and safe good-boy Mason. Not to mention her unresolved feelings towards her mother, a ruthlessly efficient bodyguard who abandoned Rose to further her own career. Lissa and her boyfriend Christian are getting more serious, much to Rose's dismay. Rose's one-way psychic link leads to some awkward moments when she can see into her friend's thoughts.
The first chapter is exposition-city, designed to help readers who've skipped the first in the series. The theme of female-dhampir-as-sluts is again briefly touched upon, but not fully explored. Some Moroi start deciding that they'd like to learn how to use their elemental magicks offensively ('bout damn time!) What I find hugely curious is the Uncle-Tomishness of most of the dhampir. I'd love to see a full-out dhampir rebellion. Just because they're the genetic equivalent of mules is no reason why they have to settle for second best at every turn! Those Moroi deserve to be knocked off their high horses.
Mason dies, believing to the last that Rose loves him. Dimitri turns down an intriguing offer of guardianship with an unconventional Moroi woman (Christian's aunt Tasha) I think it would have been so interesting if he had taken the offer. But then again, I'm a sucker for hard choices and unrequited love stories.
Ordinarily, I wouldn't recommend skipping books in a series. Especially by the third book, there may be too much background info to catch up on. However, this book has enough exposition in it, the author seems determined to bring everyone up to speed and rope in new readers with this later addition if necessary. I think readers will enjoy the first two books of Vampire Academy, but if you are looking for some resolution to the romantic conflict and a dramatic cliffhanger ending, you'd do fine to go directly to this book without reading the others first.
The class tensions inherent in vampire society are finally beginning to bust apart at the seams. Once again, dhampir Rose is torn between love and duty as she struggles to keep her growing feelings for her tutor Dimitri under wraps as she protects her Moroi friend Lissa from Moroi attacks. Rose has already earned two molnija marks (the Russian word for lightning) on the back of her neck for killing Strigoi. This book includes a huge battle scene, which earns her a molnija star tattoo meaning she's killed too many Strigoi to count.
The end of the book brings plenty of tension and excitement. As graduation nears, Rose has begun seeing ghosts. She also finally ends up making love with Dimitri but almost immediately loses him to a Strigoi attack brought on by some foolish underclassmen, intent on hazing new members of their secret club. Christian, Lissa's boyfriend, uses his fire magic so successfully in the attack, that many are forced to re-evaluate the Moroi's 'helplessness' and the necessity of such harsh lives for the dhampir. Rose's friend Lissa who's been cavorting about, oblivious to the near-slavery that Rose has been facing as her protector, finally gets a long-overdue wake-up call about how selfish she's been when Rose ultimately abandons Lissa to drop out of school, mere days before graduation, to hunt down and confront the now-Strigoi Dimitri.
We're finally at a point in this series where the author doesn't feel the need to fill us in on everything that has happened before. Readers, if you haven't read Vampire Academy, Frostbite and Shadow Kiss, go back and take a look at those first.
The action in this book moves away from the school setting, when Rose abandons her best friend Lissa in order to track down her former lover Dimitri, who has been turned into a Strigoi. Rose and Dimitri promised each other that if they ever were to fall in battle, and turned into evil Strigoi, that they wouldn't stop until they'd put the other to rest, and Rose intends to make good on her promise. Having no idea where to begin her search, she decides to track down his family in Russia, hoping that maybe he would have returned there. Sure enough, she does find them, a strong family of women who eagerly accept her into their ranks. Spending time with Dimitri's sisters forces her to re-evaluate her harsh opinion of life outside of her professional duties. In them, she is able to witness warm family relationships for the first time. She also finds that Lissa's spirit ability isn't as rare as she thought, and meets a few more spirit users, including another bonded pair, who have discovered a completely different range of abilities.
Rose also runs into Sydney, a human "Alchemist" part of a secret order who helps hide vampires from the rest of human society by destroying Strigoi bodies. The sudden inclusion of a whole new class of slayers stretched my suspension of disbelief. Rose is told that Alchemists are something that all dhampirs are told about once they graduate school and since she's a drop-out, that's why she hadn't heard of them. I thought it would have been a lot more believable if Alchemists were incredibly rare, or perhaps limited only to certain parts of Russia.
After Rose joins forces with a group of dhampir vigilantes, she finally does track down Dimitri and is disturbed by how much like his old self he still seems. She hesitates a fraction too long, and ends up susceptible to his bite which leaves her completely addled. She then spends several weeks as his prisoner, as he tries to convince her to join by his side as a fully "awakened" Strigoi. For Rose, this is a real look at what life as a blood whore might look like. Seductive, enjoyable... but ultimately, quite empty. Luckily, she is able to come to her senses in time, and aided by some of the ghosts that she is occasionally able to call upon she finds the strength to try and stake Dimitri. Shortly after, she discovers that there may be a way to use Lissa's spirit ability to reverse the change to Strigoi, but unfortunately it will be too late for Dimitri... or is it?
I will be interested to see how Rose will use her new hard-won knowledge of Strigoi physiology in the upcoming books of the series. I'm also hopeful (though, I wouldn't hold my breath) that Lissa will finally start to show some battle prowess herself, wielding magic to destroy her enemies in future installments of this series.
I borrowed all of these books from the public library.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Friday, November 6, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
I would have liked to have seen Judy Woodworth present her wonderful felt fingerpuppets again. And I would have loved to check out my colleague Michele Robinson's program on ways to spice up your storytimes. Also, Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum of Unshelved fame were there speaking. Interestingly, I saw a number of tours and special events offered this year. These didn't have so much appeal to me, because, after all, I live here, so I see a lot of The Getty Center, The Huntington and the movie studios on a regular basis. In the end, my plans for celebrating Halloween won out. Did anybody make it out to Pasadena for the conference? If so, how did it go?