Saturday, February 12, 2011

Review #5 Frostbite

Part two of two. The second vampire book I read over the weekend was Frostbite by Richelle Mead. This is the second book in her hugely popular Vampire Academy series. I enjoyed this book, even though it was weaker that the first book. I plan on reading the whole series though, so this book was not bad enough to keep me from reading the other ones. I just want to warn you that the world of Vampire Academy is insanely complicated. It took me about 50-100 pages of the first book to really figure out what was going on. I will try to break it down as concisely as possible. I have a tendency to ramble and be too verbose, I apologize in advance.
The book is about Rose Hathaway she is in this high school and is training to be a Guardian. There are three kinds of vampires in this world
Moroi – full blooded vamps, they drink blood and need to in order to survive but they are good, can go in the sunlight (even though it weakens them) and they can do magic based on one of the four elements. They are the leaders of this vampire society, many of them are Russian-y and there are 12 royal families. Its a very uptight upper crusty world.
Strigoi- evil bad vampires. They drink blood to survive and to kill. They are super strong, super fast and super evil. If you are bitten and drink their blood as a human, dhampir or moroi you become Strigoi. If you are Moroi and drink someone's blood and kill them, you become Strigoi. They can't do magic or go in the unlight at all. They also like to kill Moroi.
Dhampir – These are half vampires. They don't drink blood, but have increased strength, hearing vision etc. Dhampirs are traditionally Guardians. Bodyguards that are trained to protect Moroi from Strigoi. It's a weird class system because Dhampirs are definitely more like servants but they are vital to this weird vampire society. Rose is a Dhampirs. It gets even more complicated because two Dhampirs can't have children but Moroi+Dhampir =Dhampir and Human+ Moroi= Dhampir. There is also a lot of baggage attached to being a female Dhampir because there aren't many female guardians. A lot of uppercrusty Moroi men will sleep with Dhampir women and beget Dhampir children off of them. There is also this weird concept where Dhampir women let Moroi feed from them and it's this very sexual kinky fetish thing. But it's also really looked down on and Dhampir women who do this are called “blood whores.”
There is even more stuff but I think that is the basics. Rose is best friends with Lissa who is Moroi, a royal and the vamp who Rose is going to serve as guardian to. It's also crazy because they have this weird psychic connection where Rose can slip into Lissa's head. They go to St Vladamir's which is the Vampire Academy of the series. Rose is supposed to go to one of her final tests to be a Guardian. She goes with her mentor and fellow guardian Dimitri. Rose is in love with him, and he's into her. But it's forbidden for Guardians to be together because they would be making out instead of protecting their charge. They go out to this big royal estate for her test but no one is there because there has been a Strigoi attack and everyone is dead. This colors the rest of the book because the kids all go up to some fancy Moroi ski resort which is where the final drama of the book happens.
I can't really write too much about this book because it is VERY much a sequel novel. Rose is still dealing with the events from the first book. Her bff Lissa and Lissa's new bf. Rose is still dealing with her feelings for Dimitri and the conflict she has with her mother who sort of abandoned her at a young age to the school. (It's a super fancy boarding school in Montana)
Once you understand the world it becomes really engrossing. I think that is what I like about the series. I also love Rose. She is a total badass. She is top of her fighting classes and is an awesome warrior woman. I love that she can beat people up. I also love that she is sexy and is known for being a bit loose, but she's still a virgin. She is sexual, but not a slut which I think is a really great description to make. Too often a woman is either a Saint or a Whore. Its nice to see a teenage character who acknowledges her sexual feelings without needing to act like Samantha from Sex and the City. She also has this relationship with Lissa. They are best friends but they still fight. There are parts of each other's lives that the other one doesn't understand. It is a very human and complicated relationship. Rose is totally loyal to Lissa and vice versa, but it doesn't mean that they don't have problems. If anything Rose is jealous of Lissa's boyfriend. According to convention this would mean that Rose is sexually/romantically interested in Lissa. But that is not the case. She is just jealous that another person now has such an intimate relationship with someone who Rose had had an intimate relationship with. I think it's a very complex relationship they have and that it's very true to real life and real girls relationships. Either way I would suggest reading this series. There is also a great review of it on io9.com which is where I heard about it.

You can buy it here

Review # 4 Braced to Bite

Part One of Two. This past weekend I worked at the Pasadena Antiquarian Book Show. Not only did was I the only person under 65 to attend, but I also cemented my youth by reading not one, but TWO ridiculous teen vampire novels. The first one being Braced to Bite by Serena Robar. The book follows Colby Blanchard who is a all around perfect high school blonde. (She's someone I would have hated in HS) She is top of her class, takes APs. She is also the top of the cheerleading pyramid and is friends with some vapid people and is about be asked out by the star quarterback. Well, the quarterback doesn't ask her out, and while she is walking home through the woods after the big game she is attacked. The guy ends up beating her up and making her drink his blood, but she kicks him in the crotch (Awesome!) She then wakes up in a ditch. She walks home and realizes once she gets there that it's been three days. Her mom cuts her hand and Colby actually drinks the blood. Then Colby's crazy great aunt makes the diagnosis that Colby is a vamp! Apparently the aunt worked as a nurse in WWII and she saw a few vampires that way. It's throw away lines like that that make this book hilarious. It has a really light tone and doesn't take itself seriously, which is fun. The only problem is when you apply more logic to them the story's logic starts to fall away. But it really didn't detract too much from the book, it was a $2.99 bargain book.
Anyway. Colby spends the next few chapters adjusting to her new vampire status. We learn that she doesn't have fangs, and this is the one bit of the book that really makes me love it. Colby's father is an orthodontist. So, of course, she has perfect straight teeth. When she was 12 her father had her cainines removed to give her that perfect smile. Yeah, she is a vamp with no fangs, it gets better. He feels so bad about it that he makes her stainless steel fangs that attach to her headgear. Yeah. She has headgear fangs. It may sound stupid, but it's definitely something I haven't seen in Vampire novels yet, so points for originality. I also love how awkward that is, having to wear headgear while you feed is just so ludicrous. Being a teenager is an exercise in awkward futility. You're really not an adult, and you can't really do anything. Your body is changing and you don't really know what to do with it. I just love how embarrassing that image of her is.
The main plot of the book is that Colby is a half-blood vampire. It's explained in the book why, but not very well. To be honest, I really don't care that much. The bottom line is that half-bloods are considered aberrations, they are sought out and destroyed. Her vampire investigator is Thomas and he is the love interest. He tells her that all vampires are licensed by the Vampire Council and your license is a magic ring. Most of the book is about Colby and Thomas trying to get her that ring.
I really enjoyed this book. It was cute and mildly original. Even though most of it was the same cliched stuff you see in teen novels (awkwardness, new feelings, new powers or new talents, and a crush) it was so light hearted and fun that I didn't mind the dumb bits. Like I said, the book didn't take itself seriously so neither did I. It doesn't get serious scrutiny and it was fun. I would read the sequel.

You can buy the book here. Heck, if you want my copy I'd gladly send it to you for free.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Review #3 Among Other Things, I've Taken Up Smoking

The third book I read was “Among Other Things, I've Taken Up Smoking” by Aoibheann Sweeney. I picked up this book at one of the local used bookstores. It was just a dollar and it had a blurb from Alison Bechdel. The book follows Miranda as she grows up. There are four parts, the first is her childhood and high school. The other three are what happens when she goes away to NYC for a summer. We learn that she grew up on Crab Island which is a tiny island near a small fishing town in Maine. Miranda is a lonely child because her mother dies when she is very young and she is raised by her extremely detached father alone on the island. It's just the two of them. Her father is an expert classicist who specializes in Ovid. He is working on a translation of The Metamorphosis and Miranda helps him. She is really an outsider in her own life. Even though she can't remember it she was born in NYC. Which to the town means that she is from “away.” Her father is SOO aloof the whole book, but he is her everything. He is this huge figure haunting the entire book even though she moves away from him in the second half. After she graduates from high school, with no prospects for the future. Her father suddenly gets her a job with at the Latin library that he helped to found. So Miranda packs up and goes to NYC to discover herself.
I found this book really strange. The reviews on Amazon are cut right down the middle with half of them saying the book is a moving portrait of a young person finding themselves, with the other half calling it boring drivel where nothing happens. It's true that this is a really really slow book. This is Sweeney's first novel and you can read that. You can tell she wanted to write a moving story about discovering yourself. It comes off overly ambitions. Her writing is not bad, but uneven. Most of the time the prose was unremarkable, but suddenly there would be a brilliant line. The prose also comes off as non-existant. That might be because Miranda is almost non-existent. Much of the book is colored by Ovid's work. Miranda will go into great detail about the Roman stories, these tie into the story, but not effectively enough to really warrant what becomes their overuse. If anything it is her father that is the main character. The book is really more about Miranda discovering her father than her self. She lived alone with him for 18 years, he really was her everything. She cooked and cleaned for him. She typed his translations for him. He was basically her only friend and confidant. Her father comes off as this huge looming figure. By the end you find out about him and his past that explains some of his behavior. But their relationship is very weird.
In conclusion I probably wouldn't recommend this book. I don't regret reading it, but like Miranda it was a non-entity. In fact, it's been about a week since I read it and I'm already forgetting most of it.

Buy it here.