Shadow Kiss (Review)


Title: Shadow Kiss

Author: Richelle Mead

Publication Year: 2008

Pages: 448

Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Fantasy

Source: E-book version borrowed from the public library

From the cover:

Rose knows her love for Dimitri Belikov is forbidden. Her best friend, Lissa — the last Dragomir princess — must always come first. But a strange darkness begins to grow in Rose’s mind. The immortal undead are closing in, and they want vengeance for the lives Rose has stolen. In a heart-stopping battle, Rose will have to choose between life, love, and the two people who matter most… but will her choice mean that only one can survive?

(This is the third book in the series, after Vampire Academy and Frostbite.)

After reading the first two books in the series, I was really excited to read Shadow Kiss. I figured that it must be the point where Mead would hit her stride, and things would be high-octane and intense right through the novel. This didn’t quite turn out to be the case, though. Instead, it starts off slowly, as things go as much back to “normal” as they possibly could at the Academy, and as change begins to foment in their world. Plus, there’s the small matter of the trial and sentencing they’ve been waiting for since the end of Vampire Academy, which was more … slow-paced … than I would have expected.

Having said that, the speed and intensity really picked up about a third of the way into the book. Things started to happen to Rose and the others that indicated that something big was coming. And things finally started to heat up properly between Rose and Dimitri, which I’d been hoping for since the beginning of the series already. By the end, it was a full-out action story, and I just couldn’t read fast enough. I didn’t want to put the book down from about halfway through until the end; in fact, I don’t think I did put it down, except when absolutely necessary. I read almost the whole thing from cover to cover.

Even though I had an inkling of one of the big things that happens in the end, it was still kind of a shock to read it. Shadow Kiss definitely ends on a cliffhanger that I was glad to be reading long enough after its publication that I didn’t have to wait for the next installment. By now, if I hadn’t already thought this was a great series, just enough twisting and turning has happened that I’d definitely recommend reading it to just about anyone.

Rating:

Frostbite (Review)


Title: Frostbite

Author: Richelle Mead

Publication Year: 2008

Pages: 336

Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Fantasy

Source: E-book version borrowed from the public library

From the cover:

Rose loves Dimitri, Dimitri might love Tasha, and Mason would die to be with Rose…

It’s winter break at St. Vladimir’s, but Rose is feeling anything but festive. A massive Strigoi attack has put the school on high alert, and now the Academy’s crawling with Guardians — including Rose’s hard-hitting mother, Janine Hathaway. And if hand-to-hand combat with her mom wasn’t bad enough, Rose’s tutor Dimitri has his eye on someone else, her friend Mason’s got a huge crush on her, and Rose keeps getting stuck in Lissa’s head while she’s making out with her boyfriend, Christian! The Strigoi are closing in, and the Academy’s not taking any risks…. This year, St. Vlad’s annual holiday ski trip is mandatory.

But the glittering winter landscape and the posh Idaho resort only create the illusion of safety. When three friends run away in an offensive move against the deadly Strigoi, Rose must join forces with Christian to rescue them. But heroism rarely comes without a price…

(This is the second book in the series, after Vampire Academy.)

I really liked this book as the second in the series. Not only did it take the Moroi vs Strigoi conflict further, it brought up a lot of deeper issues. For one, Rose’s mother finally makes a real appearance, and while I didn’t like her at first, I liked the way her subplot went. I feel like the relationship between her and Rose is very real, visceral even; it fits them both and makes the story feel so much more believable. Plus, the beginnings of the discussion of allowing Moroi to use magic in a more offensive way feels like it’s setting up the rest of the series to be much more interesting.

The many romantic subplots I could maybe have gone without. I mean, I get that some of them were continuations from Vampire Academy, but I think that, at times,  Mead took it just a little bit too far. I’m happy that things seem to be going in the right direction between Rose and Dmitri, though. That’s one romantic relationship I can at least root for.

All in all, Frostbite actually felt like a better book than Vampire Academy. I get that VA was really more of a set-things-up novel, but there’s definitely more fleshing-out happening in this book. More happens, and less time is spent simply laying out the basics of the world-building. It’s definitely a good second effort on Mead’s part.

Rating:

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)
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