Saturday, November 14, 2009

Vampire Week Day 7: Reformed Vampire Support Group



If "hell is being locked in a room with your friends" then 15-year-old Nina Harrison has served more than her fair share of time in hell. Turned into a vampire in 1973, Nina's spent the last 35 years attending an AA-style support group in the basement of a Catholic church with a small population of Australian vampires. They are catty and backbiting, and in general, sick of their situation, and sick of each other.

In a reaction against the shiny, super-powered vamps that are all the rage today, Nina and her rag-tag crew are complete weaklings. Vampirism is transferred by biting, and vampires don't age, but they must deal with debilitating malaise. They have about as much energy and enthusiasm as an Epstein-Barr sufferer. They crave human blood, but subsist on guinea pigs and endure stomach problems (including frequent vomiting) as a result. They slip into a unbreakable coma during daylight hours, and are so sensitive to light, they must wear sunglasses at night to avoid being blinded by car headlights or bright street lamps. In short, they are completely pathetic.

Most of the vampires struggle financially as well, finding it difficult to support themselves when they can only work night shifts and lack valid I.D.s. Nina probably has the easiest time, as she still lives with her elderly mother, and earns a decent living as the author of The Bloodstone Chronicles about Zadia Bloodstone, a fantasy vampire who is as sexy and energetic as the real vampires are not. Most of the other vampires turn to internet work from home jobs, or arrange shady under the table deals.

When Casimir, their vampire sire, is staked, Nina volunteers to travel with fellow vampire Dave, and their group leader, Father Ramon to investigate a lead on the case. Hoping to negotiate with the slayer, they feel certain when the person responsible sees how truly fragile and helpless they are, he'll give up hunting them. They soon uncover a werewolf fight club, and rescue good-looking Reuben from the menacing death match organizer Barry McKinnon. While I appreciated Nina's sense of humor, and enjoyed the Australian slang used liberally throughout the book, the sheer glumness of the vampires' situation made me feel like staking them would be a mercy. The sequel, The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group isn't due out until 2011, but I can't say that it will be eagerly anticipated.


I borrowed this book from the public library.

Vampire Week Day 6: Evernight

Evernight

by Claudia Gray

HarperTeen

2008


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.




Stargazer

by Claudia Gray

HarperTeen

2009


Be warned: spoilers abound in this review! The cat is out of the bag in this second installment in the Evernight series. High school student Bianca is the daughter of two vampires. Her parents anticipate that she is on the cusp of changing over to become a full-fledged vampire soon. In the meantime, she is studying at Evernight Academy and has developed feelings for one of other students. Lucas secured his place at the school in order to spy for The Black Cross, a vigilante group of vampire hunters, but is now on the run. Bianca's arranged some secret meetings with him, and as a "cover" has started "dating" Balthazar, an older vampire at the school whom her parents approve of. While she's beginning to feel the effects of changing over into an undead, she's also beginning to question everything she's ever believed. She thought she was a rarity: a vampire child conceived of vampire parents. But, is she in fact a full-blooded human? Have her sweet-tempered parents been deceiving her? Has she actually been adopted (or stolen?) and have her parents just been "playing house" with her? She's also starting to wonder why school authorities have admitted human students (who are unaware of the vampiric history of the school) for the first time. These questions will be sure to resonate with older teens who are skeptical of authority. Top it off with Bianca's burgeoning powers, including seeing malevolent ghosts, and a dash of forbidden romance, this series is another go-to must for Twilight fans.

I borrowed all of these books from the public library.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Vampire Week Day 5: House of Night


Marked
St. Martin's Griffin
2007



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.)


After the distinctive tattoo-like markings common to vampyres appear, Zoey Redbird is ostracized by everyone in her family except for her Native American grandmother. Zoey has to leave behind her human high school and deal with the unusually strong gift of magic powers given directly by the vampyre goddess on her own. Almost immediately, she's invited to join the Dark Daughters, an exclusive sorority, and befriends her roommate Stevie Rae as well as a few select outcasts. Together, they form a new nexus of influence at the school, upsetting the delicate balance of politics and machinations that develop amongst the vampyre cliques there.

I was unsure what to make of Zoey's Native American heritage. Some of it seemed to be accurate and specific to the place (Oklahoma) but much else of it seemed a mish-mosh of traditions from paganism, and Greco-Roman myths. Part Harry Potter, part Twilight, this series promises to be extremely popular with teens.



St. Martin's Griffin
2007



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.






The third book in the House of Night series offer fun, light reading with plenty of pop culture references. Fledgling vampyre Zoey Redbird is torn between three great possibilities for boyfriends: Erik Night, Loren Blake and Heath Luck. She's keeping more and more secrets as she struggles to figure out how to rescue her friend Stevie Rae from turning into an evil undead. Her mentor Neferet has already turned evil, and it's clear she's manipulating events. I felt bad for Zoey because she seemed so conflicted about her relationships, and despite keeping only to kisses still tends to think of herself as a "ho." She's also pretty impulsive and has trouble thinking ahead. It seemed to me that her main boyfriend, Erik, was the one she should dump. Being distracted by so many others is a sure sign that he's not the 'one'. And, he pressured her. She lacks respect for him, knowing that he was Aphrodite's ex. That has "dump him" written all over it, but she didn't seem to clue-in to that fact. One thing which I initially thought was strange was the way Loren Blake suddenly starts calling her "baby" the same way her human Imprinted boyfriend Heath had. But later, Blake turns out to be a complete cad of course, so it makes a little more sense. The book ends on a completely unexpected cliffhanger. Stevie Rae turns into a NEW kind of vampyre, and manages to transform vampyre fledgling Aphrodite (who's been shaping up to not be such a jerk after all) back into a human.




by P.C. + Kristin Cast
St. Martin's Griffin
2008


In the fourth House of Night novel, Zoey has got to win back her friends and find a way to fight the increasingly evil head of school, Neferet. Aphrodite really steps up and behaves as a true friend for Zoey. The characterizations for Zoe's friends are flatter and more boring than ever. Zoey has a brief interest in new vamp Shane, but of course, is still torn between Erik Night (who's now been promoted to drama teacher) and her human ex, Heath. Shekinah, a top-ranked priestess of Nyx, arrives to oversee things at the school and defuse Neferet's war against the humans. Zoey does come off as more ambitious and more bossy than even she realizes. Zoey gets involved with a Street Cats charity run by Benedictine nuns which is just... odd. The intersection of Catholic and Pagan beliefs in this book felt like a jarring combo to me. The story ends on a real cliffhanger, with evil Raven Mockers from local Native legend overtaking the town and more than half the school mesmerized by a beautiful but evil new male supervillain, Kalona.




Talented young fledgling vampyre Zoey Redbird and a few of her friends have holed up in some underground ducts outside their exclusive prep academy, The House of Night. They've forged an uneasy alliance with the group of red vampyres, led by Zoey's former roommate Stevie Rae.


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?



I haven't gotten the chance to read the newest book in the series yet. Even though the books seems to be slowing down, I'm sure I won't be able to help myself and I'll probably read Tempted before the end of the year.


I borrowed all of these books from the public library.

Vampire Week Day 4: Night Road

Night Road

by A.M. Jenkins

HarperTeen

2008


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.


I borrowed this book from the public library.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Vampire Week Day 3: Blue Bloods


Blue Bloods

by Melissa de la Cruz

Hyperion

2007


This series features absurdly wealthy teens in upper-class Manhattan, whose vampiric heritage is passed down from generation to generation. These vampires do sport fangs and occasionally drink blood, they are "immortal" in the sense that they are frequently incarnated, but other than that they don't share very many vampiric foibles such as problems with sunlight, crosses or garlic. Celebrity name-dropping and name-brand conciousness figures heavily here, as the students of exclusive prep school Duchesne: outsider Schuyler Van Alen, popular twins Jack and Mimi Force and Texan newcomer Bliss Llewellyn, gradually come to realize their true natures. The teen years are when new vampires are at their most fragile, and some uber-vamps known as "Silver Bloods" are hunting them. It gets a bit confusing at the end, with the revelation that the teens have been reincarnated over many centuries, with significant ties to the Roanoke Colony and Ancient Egypt. Some of the vampires are descended from arcangels, and many of them are in incestuous relationships. Jack and Mimi apparently were an item in past lives, something Mimi would very much like to resume. Jack is interested in Schuyler, who might or might not be his former wife, his mother and simultaneously his aunt. See? Confusing. Lots of suspense... is Charles Force, the twins father, a villain, or just a grouchy patrician? Is teen dreamboat Dylan human or vampire? Is Dylan innocent or is he the one responsible for Blue Blood murders, or is he just a pawn? The series reads a lot like Gossip Girls, and why shouldn't it, as the author is also responsible for the popular "Au Pairs" series. This is a light, fluffy, quick read, promising a series worth returning to.




Masquerade: A Blue Bloods Novel

by Melissa de la Cruz

Hyperion

2007


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.




Revelations: A Blue Bloods Novel

by Melissa de la Cruz

Hyperion

2008


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.

Melissa de la Cruz's take on vampiric reincarnation is unique but in looking at their incestuous relationships, their easy money (invested carefully over the long term, natch) and their adventurous globe-trotting, in many ways this series feels like Anne Rice Jr.

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

Vampire Week Day 2: Vampire Academy


Vampire Academy

by Richelle Mead
Razorbill
2007

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. Rose is also covering up the fact that she's experiencing mild withdrawals from the high she got when provided blood (a deeply shameful activity) to her friend Lissa while they were on the run. In the meantime, Lissa is stealing her arch-rival Mia's boyfriend Andrew for the social prestige, even though she'd rather be with moody Christian. When Lissa is kidnapped by powerful Moroi politician Victor (who hopes to cash in on her healing abilities) Rose must use her psychic ability to save Lissa.


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. Part high-school intrigue, part kick-ass adventure, I'm enjoying this whole series.



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.


2008

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.



Blood Promise

by Richelle Mead

Razorbill

2009


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

Vampire Week Day 1: Twilight Overload

New Moon is due out in theatres soon, soon, soon and Twilight obsession shows no sign of waning. I was in my local grocery store, when I ran across this... perhaps the oddest marketing tie-in I've ever seen.

Look carefully, and you'll notice a "Twilight" pack of razors on the left, and a "Bella" razor on the right. Wow. Am I the only one who finds the pairing of razors and vampires a tad bit disturbing?

Just a couple more things to share. These have been floating around the internet for a while, but I figured I'd link them anyway for anybody who hasn't run across these yet. Here's a spoof of the Twilight books. And here's the one that may have inspired it. Finally, there's this hilarious mash-up by Rebellious Pixels. How would Buffy react to Edward as a suitor?

For those who can't get enough of all things vampiric, you're in luck. Although I'm definitely on Team Jacob, I am a big vampire fan, and I've been devouring all manner of vampire teen fiction out there that I can get my hands on. I'll spend all this week taking a look at it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

FTC Regulations

I've had some thoughts rumbling around the back of my head on last month's Federal Trade Commission ruling that bloggers must now disclose whether or not they have received compensation for their endorsements.

I immediately wondered if book bloggers fell under this rubric. It would appear that the purpose of the ruling was designed to foster more honesty among members of the new media who have been making significant earnings giving their good opinions of products, either by being paid directly in cash from the manufacturers of said products, or by re-selling the items they've been gifted with at a personal profit. For the most part, book bloggers are small potatoes in the endorsements game. Used books are not a terribly profitable business. Even so, it looks as if they've ruled that anyone who keeps a book, needs to report it. For the most part, I donate any books I receive to the library. Sometimes I give them to friends or colleagues to read. Sometimes, I keep them. However, the strictest definition of "keep" would include anyone who does not return the book directly to the publisher, and I've certainly never done that.

As a librarian and former bookseller, I've always considered getting ARCs (Advance Review Copies) of popular books months before they're available to the general public to be one of the best perks of the job. I used to go to Book Expo, back when it was still known as the American Bookseller's Association, or ABA for short (we literary types love acronyms) and I remember being overwhelmed with gleeful greed as publishers fought to push free copies of every sort of book under the sun into our all too willing hands. Sales reps would stop by the bookstore, ready to book talk us the latest spring and fall lists, leaving piles of ARCs in their wake. Free paperbacks flowed like water, and we book lovers who were lucky enough to have the right connections were always thirsty for more.

Book collecting - like most forms of collecting, I suppose - can be a dangerous hobby. Before you know it, bookshelves are full to bursting, with books arranged horizontally in double stacks, or left in piles all over the house. It took me a good five years, at least, to curb my avaricious instincts to manageable levels. Nowadays, when I go to ALA Annual Conference I'm much more selective.

But, I think publishers have become much more selective too. Whereas I used to be plied with more than I could carry at conferences, forcing me to make multiple trips back to my car or hotel room to drop off my plunder, now I find it much more common for publishing representatives to quiz me before they hand over one of their limited ARCs. Usually, they want to know where I work, and if I have direct authority to purchase things. In general, they seem more willing to give me advance copies if they learn that I have a blog, but I've certainly never had anyone demand a positive review from me in exchange for a book.

I like to think that receiving free books absolutely wouldn't sway me to write positive reviews that I didn't believe in. However, the easiest way to "prove" that would be point you to a terrible review I've given something, and in general, I don't like to do that. I like to keep all of my criticism fair and constructive. There are so very many wonderful things being published each year... I don't feel I have the time to write snarky reviews. As a reviewer for School Library Journal, I have read a number of books that I would consider, "additional," meaning it wouldn't be among the list of things I'd want to first purchase. And in these tight economic times, for a lot of libraries, those "additional" or "marginal" items will be the first things we'll cut. That's probably the closest I've come to writing a harsh review.

The FTC ruling takes effect in December, and so, from now on, I'll be noting where I obtained each book that I've reviewed. I think it will be interesting to keep track.

Monday, November 2, 2009

California Library Association Annual 2009

No, I didn't make it out to the Annual Conference for the California Library Association this year, even though it was right in my own backyard. I was sorely tempted, because it was hosted in Pasadena, but it fell squarely on Halloween.

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?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

National Novel Writing Month

It's November, and we know what that means. It's National Novel Writing Month, or as it's better known, Nanowrimo. 30 days to complete a 50,000 word novel. The objective isn't quality, it's merely getting it done. I attempted it last year, and did well... until I hit the end of the second week, and completely choked. I've finished reading my copy of No Plot, No Problem, by Nanowrimo founder Chris Baty and feel reinvigorated, so I think I'll try again. This website seems helpful too. Hopefully, I'll avoid some of the pitfalls I ran into last year and actually complete it this time.

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