Shadow Kiss: A Vampire Academy Novel

Shadow Kissby Richelle Mead

So, I’m not really going to describe what’s happened in this novel seeing how it’s book three and so much hinges on what has happened in books one and two.  Just know, the story continues to build.  The Strigoi are becoming a bigger and more puzzling threat that will definitely add to the action and suspense in future installments.  More elements of the special bond between Rose and Lissa will come to light, with some frightening consequences for Rose.  Of course, the relationships (or lack-there-of) between Rose and Dimitri and Lissa and Christian keep things interesting, and adding the element of Adrian, the spoiled royal Moroi who is also a Spirit practicer, has consequences on both relationships.  Plus, there is a HUGE ending…and you’ll just have to read the book to find out!

Reaction: When I started the book, I was really excited.  I had been waiting for this for what seemed like forever though it was only a matter of months.  Then, about 200-250 pages in, I started getting impatient and a little annoyed.  There didn’t seem to be much development.  Little things, sure, and now that I have read the whole things I realize how essential many of these little things were to the story as a whole and also how they could potentially be important in the future, but I was beginning to feel like this book was just going to rehash things I already understood–Rose’s devotion to Lissa but the scary consequences of their bond and the fact that Rose may never have her own life; Rose’s frustration over her relationship with Dimitri; Lissa’s need to practice Spirit despite the many negative consequences; etc.  Once I hit page 335, though, it was full throttle to the end.  WOW!  Let me say this, I cried like a little baby with snot and all.  I have become very emotionally invested in these characters, mainly Rose, and she has gone through so much hurt already…but there is so much more to come.  Despite how I was saddened by parts of the end, I was also heartily relieved by other parts and very glad to see the quest that Rose is about to embark upon.  She needs this!  Ok, that’s all I’m going to say, well, except for this: READ IT!

What’s Next: A yet-to-be-named 4th and 5th installment slated to be out in 2009 and 2010, but when specifically, that’s what I want to know!  I guess we will all have to continually check Richelle Mead’s website to find out.

Other Reviews: From another V.A. fan, The Story Siren.

Cybele Wordle

At our Teen Services meeting yesterday, someone discussed the use of the website Wordle (which she had heard about from one of her sessions at the YA Lit Symposium) for a fun programming idea.  To illustrate Wordle she used my review of Cybele’s Secret.  Here’s the end product:

(Click on the image for a larger view)

My reaction, I didn’t realize I used the word “bit” so much…maybe I need to work on that.

If you want to make your own Wordle tag cloud, check it out here.

Also experimenting with Wordle, Trisha from The Ya Ya Yas.

Cybele's Secret

Cybeles Secretby Juliet Marillier

Paula, the family scholar with dreams of owning her own book-selling business, is travelling with her father to Istanbul to help him obtain an ancient religious artifact called Cybele’s Gift.  While they realize their journey could be dangerous, they have no idea what truly awaits them.  When they arrive in Istanbul, they find that their close friend, and their link to Cybele, has been murdered.  Undeterred, Paula and her father hire the guard Stoyan for extra protection but still seek Cybele, and they are not the only ones.  The dastardly pirate Duarte da Costa Aguiar also has his sights set on Cybele.  Misplaced trust, rumor, and treachery help set in motion a quest for the three, Paula, Stoyan, and Duarte, put upon them by the Otherworld.  Paula is not so unfamiliar with the Otherworld having spent a lot of time their as a child, and while she realizes that she must fulfill her quest she is not so certain why they have been sent on the quest or whether she will be strong enough or wise enough to complete the tasks set before them.

Reaction: Cybele’s Secret was a really enjoyable fantasy read. The setting was richly detailed.  Paula was feisty but flawed.  Stoyan was almost too perfect but I couldn’t help but fall in love with him a bit and I have a soft spot for charming pirates, so of course I loved Duarte.  I thought the first half of the book moved a bit slowly and the second half read like an Indiana Jones movie–steep, rocky climbs, rickety rope bridges, hidden passages, caves with creepy crawlies.  Even the main treasure room had me thinking of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade or maybe it was more Pirates of the Carribean.  Either way, it seemed a bit over the top.  While I believe I enjoyed Jena’s story in Wildwood Dancing better than Paula’s, I look forward to reading more from the talented Marillier.  I do believe younger sister Stela needs a story.

Wildwood DancingPreviously, as mentioned: Wildwood Dancing.  Cybele’s Secret is a “companion novel” to Wildwood Dancing because it takes place six years after the first and is set in a completely different location.

Covers!: You know I’m a sucker for a wonderful cover and I LOOOVVVEEEEE the covers to both Cybele’s Secret and Wildwood Dancing.  Beautiful!  The images I found of them do not do them justice–they’re a bit blurry.  Oh, well.  I hope you check them out in person.  Also, this item is going on my Christmas list.

Cybele’s Secret

Cybeles Secretby Juliet Marillier

Paula, the family scholar with dreams of owning her own book-selling business, is travelling with her father to Istanbul to help him obtain an ancient religious artifact called Cybele’s Gift.  While they realize their journey could be dangerous, they have no idea what truly awaits them.  When they arrive in Istanbul, they find that their close friend, and their link to Cybele, has been murdered.  Undeterred, Paula and her father hire the guard Stoyan for extra protection but still seek Cybele, and they are not the only ones.  The dastardly pirate Duarte da Costa Aguiar also has his sights set on Cybele.  Misplaced trust, rumor, and treachery help set in motion a quest for the three, Paula, Stoyan, and Duarte, put upon them by the Otherworld.  Paula is not so unfamiliar with the Otherworld having spent a lot of time their as a child, and while she realizes that she must fulfill her quest she is not so certain why they have been sent on the quest or whether she will be strong enough or wise enough to complete the tasks set before them.

Reaction: Cybele’s Secret was a really enjoyable fantasy read. The setting was richly detailed.  Paula was feisty but flawed.  Stoyan was almost too perfect but I couldn’t help but fall in love with him a bit and I have a soft spot for charming pirates, so of course I loved Duarte.  I thought the first half of the book moved a bit slowly and the second half read like an Indiana Jones movie–steep, rocky climbs, rickety rope bridges, hidden passages, caves with creepy crawlies.  Even the main treasure room had me thinking of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade or maybe it was more Pirates of the Carribean.  Either way, it seemed a bit over the top.  While I believe I enjoyed Jena’s story in Wildwood Dancing better than Paula’s, I look forward to reading more from the talented Marillier.  I do believe younger sister Stela needs a story.

Wildwood DancingPreviously, as mentioned: Wildwood Dancing.  Cybele’s Secret is a “companion novel” to Wildwood Dancing because it takes place six years after the first and is set in a completely different location.

Covers!: You know I’m a sucker for a wonderful cover and I LOOOVVVEEEEE the covers to both Cybele’s Secret and Wildwood Dancing.  Beautiful!  The images I found of them do not do them justice–they’re a bit blurry.  Oh, well.  I hope you check them out in person.  Also, this item is going on my Christmas list.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox

First: Let’s revisit (from one of my earlier posts) this awesome book trailer…

Now, on to the review:

Adoration of Jenna Foxby Mary E. Pearson

Jenna was in a horrible accident and it has taken her a year to wake up.  Now that she is awake she can’t remember anything.  Her father, a doctor, says it will come back with time but she doesn’t even understand the word time.  How is it that she can recite whole books and every fact about a historical incident but she can’t remember ever having friends?  Something is horribly wrong, Jenna just hasn’t figured it out yet.

Reaction: This is a very hard book to review because I don’t want to give too much away.  What I can say is that The Adoration of Jenna Fox is a very well-written, thought-provoking book that just may make my favorites list for the year.  Jenna’s time is some point in the future, and while many things are different, many things stayed the same.  Pearson’s future world could be 5 years from now, 10 years, 100 years.  The characters and their problems are timeless but shaped by the advanced medical technologies and an over-use of genetic engineering.  Jenna’s central conflict involves her search to understand who she is and her place in the world.  She struggles against her parents’ smothering love and wonders at the choices they have made for her.  She longs for friendships, relationships but is not sure that she deserves them.  While Jenna deals with the issues all of us have faced at some point in time, her situation and what she has become because of the accident make her journey more difficult than any of us could imagine.

Quotes: Here are some of my favorite passages.  They are a bit spoilery.  Read at your own risk.

I sensed that Father thinks I should be impressed.  Maybe even grateful.  But what about my missing heart?  My liver?  I don’t want five hundred billion neural chips.  I want guts. (126)

“What about my soul, Father?  When you were so busy implanting all your neural chips, did you think about that?  Did you snip my soul from my old body, too?  Where did you put it?  Show me!  Where?  Where in all this groundbreaking technology did you insert my soul? (129)

Check it out: Mary E Pearson’s website.  My library’s TeenSpace webpage is quoted.  Woohoo.  Oh, and it’s going to be a movie.  I’ll be very interested to see that one!

Impossible

Impossibleby Nancy Werlin

Lucy Scarborough is looking forward to prom and her first date with the shy Gray Spencer.  She has a pretty dress and the ironic red high tops to go with it.  She’s ready to go.  The only thing marring the beauty of the moment is her mentally ill mother, Miranda.  Lucy lives with her foster parents, Soledad and Leo, because her mother went mad right after Lucy was born.  Often, Miranda disappears to no one knows where but occasionally she shows up and ruins Lucy, Soledad, and Leo’s lives.  Miranda makes an appearance on prom night shouting crazy things and throwing bottles.  Little does Lucy know that this is Miranda’s way of protecting Lucy.  Lucy ends up going to prom and sets in motion a curse that has plagued generations of Scarborough women.  Rejected by the original Scarborough lady, Fenella, the Elfin King cursed all Scarborough women to become pregnant at 17 and go crazy right after their daughters’ births.  The only way to save themselves and their daughters is to break the curse by solving and fulfilling the riddles in the song Scarborough Fair before giving birth.  Lucy luckily finds out about the curse early in her pregnancy when she reads passages of Miranda’s diary which the lucid, pre-baby Miranda left hidden for Lucy to hopefully find.  Though they are skeptical at first, Lucy has the support of her foster parents and her childhood friend Zach.  The four of them are determined to find the solution and save Lucy but will they be able to succeed where so many have failed?

Reaction: Impossible grabbed me and never let me go.  I LOVED it!  First of all, it was wonderfully written.  Werlin definitely has a gift.  She is a National Book Award Finalist so I suppose her writing ability should be no surprise.  Second, I loved how the Elfin King and the curse were the only fantastical elements of the novel, which is so different from many other “faeries are real!” books.  In Impossible, Lucy didn’t suddenly see faeries everywhere or discover an alternative universe.  She and the rest of her family continued about their real lives, going to school, working out, going to work, going to the doctor, etc.  It was reality with a twist not an alternative reality.  Finally, I enjoyed watching Lucy evolve.  She grew from a teenager to a women in about a year.  In fact, I believe Lucy and Zach at the end of the book were more mature than I am now but I suppose that’s what happens when you’re raped, then become pregnant, then realize you are cursed to go mad in a matter of months.

This book is definitely for romantics at heart.  It is a story about the strength of love.  I don’t want to say much more for fear of giving too much away, but the ending definitely hinges on the main characters’ bond.  My only hesitation regarding the novel is the maturity of the romantic relationship.  It works in the context of the novel and I certainly wouldn’t change a thing but it is a relationship that is much, much bigger than what pretty much any teen reading would be experience or have experienced.

Check it out: Nancy Werlin’s website which lists all of her books.

The Morganville Vampires Series

by Rachel Caine

The sleepy town of Morganville, TX is not all that it seems.  It’s the home toTexas Prairie University (TPEwwww), a school where partying rules and academics are an after-thought, and not much else.  Claire is 16 and smart.  She graduated high school early with acceptances to prestigious colleges such as MIT, Yale, and Caltech, but her parents were worried about her being so far at home so they forced her to go to TPU.  Claire’s miserable at TPU and is counting the days until she can transfer out.  Classes are not a challenge and she’s having some difficulties socially.  She’s always been a bit of an outcast — being super smart and really short can do that to you — but she has never encounter problems like those at TPU.  Unwittingly, she made a very bad enemy of popular girl Monica and therefore Monica’s entire crew.  Monica has a cruel streak that has Claire actually fearing for her life.  If Claire only knew that Monica isn’t the only threat to her life!  In an attempt to flee Monica, Claire seeks off campus housing.  She finds a home and a pseudo family at the Glass House.  Owned by Michael Glass, a young musician who mysteriously disappears during the day, and inhabited by not only Michael but Michael’s friends Shane and Eve, Claire finds a pseudo family at the Glass House.  But her new roommates may also be crazy because they tell her that vampires exist and they rule this town.  Hadn’t she ever wondered why so many people transfer from TPU?  All too soon, Claire learns the hard way that vampires are in fact real and they are very, very dangerous.

Glass HousesBook One: Glass Houses

The beginning.  Claire goes to live in the Glass House and learns the truth about Morganville.  Just because she lives off campus now does not mean she safe from Monica or the Monikettes (Monica’s crew).  Monica has a vampire protector, as do many of the people who live or are from Morganville, and her protector is after Claire at night just as Monica is out for Claire during the day.  After a particularly nasty incident with a particularly nasty vampire named Brandon, Shane makes a pact with the vampire; Brandon can take some of Shane’s blood in return for the safety of Shane’s friends, specifically Claire.  Claire feels horrible about the sacrifice that Shane is making for her sake.  She vows to find a way to release him from the deal.  The only way seems to be to find a special book the vampires have been searching for for years.  No human knows what’s in the book but it would be an amazing bargaining tool.  Claire hopes to find the book and free Shane from his obligation but will she survive the search and, if she finds the book, will it help or make things even worse for Claire and her friends.

Dead Girls DanceBook Two: Dead Girls’ Dance

Shane’s father is in town and he’s bent on revenge.  He and his gang of unruly biker friends have decided to take on the vampires.  Though Shane doesn’t think his father’s plans are wise he cannot help but be drawn to his father and his father’s cause.  When Shane is found at the scene of a vampire murder, he is taken into custody and sentenced to die.  Claire knows Shane is innocent and will do whatever it takes to save him and hopefully bring Shane’s father, the true murderer, to justice.  On top of that, Eve’s deranged brother, Jason, has been released from jail.  Eve is the one who testified against him and put him in jail, so understandably Eve is worried what Jason will do to her now that he’s free.  Jason’s m.o. is murdering young girls and soon girls are turning up dead.  Is it Jason or just a coincidence?

Midnight AlleyBook Three: Midnight Alley

Claire has signed a contract of protection with the most powerful vampire in town, Amelie, the creator of Morganville.  In return, Amelie wants Claire to study with Myrnin, a very intelligent scholar but very sick vampire, as well as take advanced classes.  As volatile as Myrnin can be, part of Claire is really excited to be learning about new and challenging topics, especially after the relative ease of all of her typical freshman courses, but soon she learns that studying with Myrnin is a death sentence.  Myrnin continues to decline and his mind is going; often he only sees Claire as a meal not a student, but with Amelie calling the shots is there anything Claire can do to protect herself?  Also, Jason is still on the loose and more young females are turning up dead.  Jason is becoming bolder and is beginning to threaten Claire and Eve.  The question is, why isn’t anyone trying to stop him?

Congratulations, you’ve made it this far!  What a long post this will be.  Keep reading and you’ll get my reaction.  I’ll try to be brief! :)

Reaction: I devoured these.  I was hungry for a good vampire series and these certainly fit the bill.  I like that they are different from many of the other vampire series out there since in this series vampires are the villains, though there certainly are a lot of humans who are also villainous.  I also like that the main characters, specifically the main characters involved in a romance, are human.  Vampires play a very important role in human lives but the main characters are very human (well, most of them).  I admired Caine’s creativity, specifically regarding the idea of protection contracts and the bracelets that would show which human belonged to which vampire.  This definitely showed the humans’ subservient position to the vampires.

My dislikes were few but not enough to keep me from recommending the series.  My biggest gripe was the fact that so much happens in so little time.  I read three of the current four books but I think maybe only a month passed from the beginning of the series through book three.  You read the summaries I wrote (I’m assuming), a lot of things happened in so little time!  I wanted to tell Caine to slow down or at least give these poor characters a few weeks to recover between life-shattering, near-death incidents.  The short time frame also cheapen the romance to me.  They never get to spend any time together so I feel like it is a romance of convenience and circumstance rather than reality.  The Morganville Vampires books are not the best written but they stand out in an ever-growing group of vampire series.

What’s Next: Feast of Fools, which is out now, Lord of Misrule, slated for January 9, 2009, and any others Caine decides to write.  I have Feast of Fools but I needed a break.  While I really enjoy the series I was reading them too fast so I’m waiting and will read Feast of Fools as a treat in the coming months.

Don’t just take my word: TheYaYaYas take.