Vampire Academy (Review)


Title: Vampire Academy

Author: Richelle Mead

Publication Year: 2007

Pages: 336

Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Fantasy

Source: E-book version borrowed from the public library

From the cover:

St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school — it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s — the very place where they’re most in danger. . . .

Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi — the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires — make Lissa one of them forever.

I hadn’t heard of this series until I saw a preview for it before seeing Catching Fire with Amy in a theatre over the winter break. And to be honest, the preview looked kind of cheesy, but since Amy said that the books weren’t that bad, I thought I’d give them a shot.

One of the things I liked was the twist of vampire mythology that Mead created: the difference between Moroi (alive and good) and Strigoi (dead and bad) vampires, the ability of Moroi vampires to procreate, and the dhampirs. It’s different from so many of the other standard vampire stories, and yet somehow not crossing a line into ridiculous (sparkling in the sun, anyone?). There was something seriously badass about Rose’s character, and it was interesting to see vampires (the Moroi, at least) being portrayed not as stronger than everyone else, but as creatures in need of protection just like anyone else. Plus, the ability to wield magic and use it to help the earth? Kind of cool.

I’ve been reading a lot of YA series lately, particularly urban fantasy, and there’s something that’s been niggling in the back of my brain for a while. A big thing is made in this book about Rose being wild and having a reputation for being “easy”, and yet it’s revealed – and brought up a bunch of times in her internal monologue – that she’s still a virgin. I’m not at all sure why this is such a prevailing theme in current YA fantasy. (See DivergentThe Iron KingWicked LovelyThe Summoning, and The Gathering as examples of a main character who is female and makes a point to comment on her virginity multiple times at the beginning of a series, and possibly continues to do so throughout the remainder of the series.) And, to be honest, it’s a bit irritating. Why is this even an important plot point? Why is “first time” romance such a big thing in all these big and famous series? It’s a little worrisome.

Mead’s done a great job here in creating a different and intriguing world order for her vampires, and I have to say that I enjoyed reading this book quite a bit. The characters and mythos were unique and sympathetic, and there was enough intrigue and action to keep my attention throughout. Definitely pick up Vampire Academy if you get a chance, even if you didn’t like the movie. The book’s always better, anyways.

Rating:

The Surgeon (Review)


Title: The Surgeon

Author: Tess Gerritsen

Publication Year: 2002

Pages: 384

Genre: Fiction

Source: E-book borrowed from the public library

From the cover:

He slips into homes at night and walks silently into bedrooms where women lie sleeping, about to awaken to a living nightmare. The precision of his methods suggests that he is a deranged man of medicine, prompting the Boston newspapers to dub him “The Surgeon.” Led by Detectives Thomas Moore and Jane Rizzoli, the cops must consult the victim of a nearly identical crime: Two years ago, Dr. Catherine Cordell fought back and filled an attacker before he could complete his assault. Now this new killer is re-creating, with chilling accuracy, the details of Cordell’s ordeal. With every new murder he seems to be taunting her, cutting ever closer, from her hospital to her home. And neither Moore nor Rizzoli can protect Cordell from a ruthless hunter who somehow understands — and savors — the secret fears of every woman he kills.

I would never have heard of this series if it weren’t for the television show Rizzoli & Isles. So sometimes tv can be a good thing, right?

I knew going in that the character of Maura Isles wouldn’t be in The Surgeon, but what I didn’t know was that the character of Rizzoli isn’t really the same, either. In the tv series, she’s a rough-and-tumble female cop, yes, and sometimes seems to be trying too hard to prove herself, but that’s the key word … sometimes. In this book, I kind of didn’t even like her character. She was trying too hard, it seemed, and I wanted to empathize with her but couldn’t always. I could usually understand where she was coming from, but there were times where I didn’t at all “get” her.

Having said that, I liked the book as a whole. The characters were generally good, and I liked the shift of narrators to give a more complete view of the story. For a crime novel, which I don’t normally read, The Surgeon did good.

Rating:

Sunday Salon: Armchair Audies, 2013 Edition

sundaysalon

armchairaudiesThis will be my third year participating in the Armchair Audies. In 2012, I read and predicted the HumorNarration by the Author/Authors, and Audiobook of the Year categories. Last year, I read and predicted the Non-Fiction and Short Stories/Collections categories. This year, I’ve decided to read new categories.

But first, what’s the Armchair Audies all about? I loved Overreader‘s description so much that I’m mostly stealing it. Here ya go:

It’s Armchair Audies time! What’s that? Never heard of them? Well, they’re new. The Audies are annual “awards recognizing distinction in audiobooks and spoken word entertainment” and are awarded in June. [Over a hundred audiobooks are nominated in more than twenty different categories.] Rather more than even an audiobook maniac like myself can handle, so to get a handle on them all, blogger Literate Housewife spearheaded the Armchair Audies. Interested bloggers will listen to everything from one (or more) categories and give their opinions.

This year, I’ve decided to read in the Fiction and Non-Fiction categories. We’ll see in a few weeks what the nominations for Audiobook of the Year are. Until then, here are the books that I’ll be tackling in the two categories I’ve already chosen:

Fiction

 

  • Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (read by Will Patton)
  • The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (read by George Guidall)
  • The Good House by Ann Leary (read by Mary Beth Hurt)
  • The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler (read by Tavia Gilbert)
  • Jacob’s Oath by Martin Fletcher (read by George Guidall)
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (read by Neil Gaiman)

Non-Fiction

  • Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill (read by Sandy Rustin)
  • David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell (read by Malcolm Gladwell)
  • The End of Nature by Bill McKibben (read by Jeff Woodman)
  • The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese by Michael Paterniti (read by L. J. Ganser)
  • Thank You For Your Service by David Finkel (read by Arthur Bishop)

On Second Thought: Outsmarting Your Mind’s Hard-Wired Habits (Review)


Title: On Second Thought: Outsmarting Your Mind’s Hard-Wired Habits

Author: Wray Herbert

Narrator: Dan John Miller

Publication Year: 2010

Pages: 304 (audio length: 3 hours 35 minutes)

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Audiobook version purchased from Audible.com

From the cover:

Our brains are marvels, hard-wired by millions of years of evolution to boast a number of mental shortcuts, biases, and tricks that allow us to negotiate our complicated lives without overthinking every choice and decision we have to make. Unfortunately, those ancient shortcuts don’t always work to our advantage in our modern lives – when we don’t also think slowly and rationally, those hard-wired habits can trip us up. This intriguing book helps us to understand how our minds are predisposed to think about the world – and how to avoid many of life’s common mistakes. Among the surprising examples of these mental habits at work in our lives:

  • Experienced skiers make fatal mistakes on familiar terrain more often than less experienced ones.
  • 99.9 percent of the citizens of France are registered organ donors, but only 28 percent of Americans are.
  • Early birds on jury duty are more likely to succumb to racial stereotypes in delivering verdicts when the day gets late.
  • People who are hungry for lunch will donate less money to charity.

Wray Herbert introduces us to 20 of these shortcuts and biases, explaining how they affect us in the real world and how they’re being studied in labs around the world.

What I really enjoyed about On Second Thought was the way Herbert turned the research into something that the average reader could understand. I’m not very likely to go looking through the literature about current psychological research – and I might not understand it all even if I did – but this book did a great job of making the information accessible to laymen. Some of the hard-wired habits that he discussed were things that we somehow innately know – like that most people will go with the presumed option if you ask them to opt in or out of something – but some of them were completely unexpected (or at least things that I never would have connected on my own).

I would have liked, though, for the book to go into more detail about how we can avoid following through on these hard-wired habits, particularly for things that affect us in everyday life. Having said that, I’m fairly sure that I’ve been trying to make more of an effort to slow my thought process down when making important decisions since reading this book. I’m definitely still not giving more thought to a lot of things that are hard-wired routines … but baby steps, right?

Rating:

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Review)

Title: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Author: Susan Cain

Narrator: Kathe Mazur

Publication Year: 2012

Pages: 352 (audio length: 10 hours 39 minutes)

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Audiobook version purchased from Audible.com

From the cover:

At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts — Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak — that we owe many of the great contributions to society.

In Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal throughout the twentieth century and explores how deeply it has come to permeate our culture. She also introduces us to successful introverts — from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Passionately argued, superbly researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how they see themselves.

I really enjoyed the subject matter of this book, and was pleasantly surprised that the author managed to avoid so many of the stereotypes of introverted people while writing it.

Cain not only described common traits of introverts, but explained the strengths of introversion and the many advantages it can have in different types of careers and situations. Most importantly for me personally, she gave examples of effective strategies that introverts use in their lives to cope with situations that are necessary but uncomfortable for introverts. It was really empowering to hear someone “talking” about the trials of introversion as if they are simply characteristics and not necessarily problems to be overcome. Quiet never implies that being an introvert is a bad thing, simply that it is something that needs to be understood to be fully appreciated.

I think that this book can be helpful to so many people – not just to introverts themselves, but to the extroverts around them, who might be their partners, bosses, or friends. I would absolutely recommend Quiet as important reading for pretty much anyone interested in how human psychology affects our daily lives, and who might want to better understand how the personalities our society values have changed over the years.

Rating:

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