“Vampire Academy” by Richelle Mead

I must be the last person on the planet to read “Vampire Academy.” I know it came out a while ago, but holy crap is it good. Rose is such a kick-ass heroine and Lissa is such a gentle soul. Their halfway mind connection, where Rose can see her best friend Lissa’s thoughts but not vice-versa is a nice plot technique.

The world building of vampires with their damphir bodyguards (half-human, half-vampires who have serious martial-art skills) creates a lot of exciting action sequences. But it’s not all blood and guts. There is some serious romance.

Damphir Rose balances her bad attitude with loyalty to for friends. And her attraction to her older teacher Dmitri is H-O-T. Of course, maybe I have a slight bias towards shipping them, since I met my husband in a teacher-student relationship. Just like Dmitri and Rose, my husband-to-be was seven years older than me. But he didn’t teach me martial arts. He taught me calculus, which also led to some potentially lethal lessons, haha.

Anyway. I shipped Dmitri and Rose. Hard.

Also, this series has a unique approach to discussing mental illness. Lissa is a vampire who has an unusual power called spirit that is poorly understood. She basically has healing super-strength, which is great for other people, but not so great for herself. Using her powers, even though she often wants to, causes her to feel depressed. Even though Lissa is strong, she has to learn how to balance self-care with caring for others. Bringing the dialogue on mental illness into the fantasy arena surely will help reduce stigma for readers who suffer from the same conditions.

So yeah. “Vampire Academy” isn’t just about fighting and kissing, it has some additional depth. Although, honestly I like the violence and romance just as much as the deep parts.


“Winter” by Marissa Meyer (The Lunar Chronicles)

I just read Marissa Meyer’s “Winter” and it did not disappoint. Ever since “Cinder” stole my heart with her cyborg awesomeness, the Lunar Chronicles have made a serious impression on me. There’s a strong message of being yourself no matter your background and abilities. Each novel in the series introduces a new character and romance to the cast to overthrow the cruel Lunar Queen. And each is loosely based on a popular fairytale – Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White.

“Winter” is the final episode in the battle against the Lunars and is a hefty volume at 823 pages. Of course, the cast of characters at this point in the series has become quite large, so Meyer needed a fair amount of space to describe each of their contributions.

At first I found Prince Kai’s participation in the plot a bit tiresome – how many times must he attempt to bait the Queen into a marriage that will make her empress over the Commonwealth? And then, it hit me over the head with the brilliance of it. This complaint is usually one I have for female characters. Why is Princess So-and-so only valued for her marriageable eligibility and sex appeal? Why is her only plot device the betrothal and the wedding?

Here, Prince Kai is the sex muffin who is traded around in marriage, a typically female role. His love interest, Cinder is the one who has to save him – a girl who’s part cyborg, part human. Now, I’m back to remembering why I love this series so much. The feminine empowerment is incredible.

Winter, the newest character in the cast, suffers from mental illness. In spite of her struggles, she triumphs. Cress overcomes her shyness. Scarlet tames the beast. I found the parallels between the long list of couples to cause characters to become indistinct at times, however this didn’t freeze my heart to “Winter.” The message of loving someone despite of their flaws is a good one.

Will they all live happily ever after?

Read “Winter” to find out.


“The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” by Holly Black

I’m a huge Holly Black fan ever since I read “White Cat.” She writes urban fantasy with a thriller undercurrent that you just can’t put down. And boy is her work dark! Yikes! (But in a good way.)

“The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” is a vampire story, but not the sexy, sparkly kind. It’s a blood and guts and fear vampire story with a strong science fiction background. A virus infects humans and turns them into vampires after they feed on human blood.

Tana, the heroine, has to make a lot of difficult choices and it is those choices that made me keep reading to the end. Tana is not a character that I really liked, but, paradoxically, I liked her that way. She seemed gritty and abrasive and real. Tana’s decisions belonged to her alone, and I wasn’t living vicariously through her since we didn’t have a lot in common. This was good, because in a dark tale like “Coldtown” you really need some distance.

However, Tana had a lot of redeeming qualities too, like protecting people she loved, keeping her promises, and risking her safety to help others. So, she’s not super unlikable.

I also appreciated how this novel seemed placed in an alternate present. Too often I read post-apocalyptic future books where the message is like “the future sucks peeps and we’re all going to die.”

This book had some of that going on, but the cyberworld and reality TV seemed identical to today’s, so I took it to mean “the present sucks in this alternate world peeps and we’re all going to die.”

I guess I found that comforting, because it didn’t seem as much as a commentary on where we’re headed as a parallel universe where vampires exist. Unless vampires actually exist in this world, in which case don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. 🙂

Thoughts on “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”

Let me tell you about my Harry Potter activities of the past year:

1) I attended a Harry Potter party that coincided with the beginning of the school year at my local library. There was a wide range of ages from students of Hogwarts to Alumni. We drank butter beer (caramel soda with syrup and ice-cream), made crafts (wands, spell books and tote bags), and watched a local improv comedy group preform themed skits.

2) I read “Beedles the Bard,” the collection of Wizard Fairytales written by JK Rowling.

3) I listened to “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” on audio book. Let’s just say that Voldermort still scares the crap out of me. I barely slept the night after listening to the final chapter. Funny how my bathrobe on the back of my chair looks exactly like Voldermort with the lights out. Oh my god.

4) Sometimes I wear a Ravenclaw pin on my button-down shirt. I know it’s more trendy to be Hufflepuff or Slytherin, or some weird combo like Griffinpuff, but. I just can’t. I’m a Ravenclaw thorough and thorough.

5) I’m rewatching Harry Potter movies 4 (Daniel Radcliffe has the best hair in this one), and 7 parts 1 and 2 just for the feels.

I tell you guys. The magic’s still going strong even with the muggles.

But I wanted to talk about another item on the list entirely.

5) I read the play “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”

Yep. I did it. Out of peer pressure from my YA book club.

Harry Potter has always been a franchise, but this latest creation really demonstrated how low it could go. People tell me “Scorpius! Such an original character!”

I say, “Puh-lease. The whole thing’s a rehash of book 4.” (And I just listened to book four, so I know.)

It didn’t knock me off my broomstick to say the least. And I was disappointed. Very disappointed.

There were so many directions the play could’ve gone in. A whole new year at Hogwarts, a whole new threat to conquer, a whole new cast of characters that didn’t involve the golden trio. And some of this happened, but it wasn’t exploited to the fullest extent. Instead, the writers relied on one thing above all others: fan service.

Fans want more official Potter in any shape or form. It doesn’t matter about the quality, it just matters that it exists. It doesn’t matter how many times people joke about Voldermort’s lack of a nose. It’s still funny… or is it?

Let me just say it: Watching Harry, Ron and Hermione in office jobs with greying hair, parenting problems, and developing guts is not magical. It’s *bloody* depressing.

“But they’re just like us!” You cry. “There’s nothing wrong with offices, aging, parenting, and obesity!”

No, there’s nothing wrong with it, but I like Harry Potter to stand for hope. For light in the midst of darkness, for extraordinary among the mundane. And to see the hero of my youth reduced to someone more muggle than wizard, that was very depressing indeed.

As for the plot involving the kids, it was a tired rendition of the plot from the fourth book. Bringing the threat of Voldermort back in the running killed the satisfaction of the seventh book’s resolution. Can’t there be other dark wizards? Must we always rely on Voldermort? Why can’t Voldermort stay dead where he belongs?

Harry Potter is the Iliad and Odyssey of our time. We know the myths inside and out. We don’t need a rehash, because the original work is timeless onto itself.



“The Thickety: A Path Begins” by JA White

This is one of these books that changed my entire approach to writing. (Hi, I’m a writer by the way.) “The Thickety” is just brimming with amazing technique. So, here’s what JA White can do:

1) How he introduces his characters. The sentences containing their description are instantly memorable and contain at least one trait that the reader can pick up on and is carried throughout the book (Grace’s ribbon). However, this isn’t what makes it brilliant. The scene introducing the character demonstrates their qualities immediately. You don’t have to guess that Grace is a massive villain because she shows it to you. She prevents the main character from getting medication for her brother in the first scene. What a jerk.

2) The mood and atmosphere is seriously creepy and is maintained throughout the book. The living forest, the paranoid town, the loneliness of the main character, the nethergrim, the addictiveness of spells. I couldn’t sleep after reading this thing. Which may make some people go: this is middle grade? Yes. This pushes the boundaries of horror in middle grade, but seriously, I think kids can handle it. Do you see what’s on TV these days? And lots of children’s classics are scary. Joan Aiken. I loved Joan Aiken when I was smaller and somehow I don’t think it affected me as much then as it does now.

3) The beginning and the ending have serious symmetry. This is honestly what takes this book to masterpiece level. Too often the ending of a book isn’t well-thought out and kills the entire work. Not here. The ending shocked me, yet made so much sense. The entire book had been pushing for this ending so hard that no other ending would’ve worked. Once you read it, you’re like “Oh my god, what? Oh. Of course.”

4) The writing style is very clear. Enough variation in sentence length keeps things interesting. JA White taught me that a two word sentence is okay after some longer sentences and adds colour to a manuscript.

Anyway, even if you’re not a writer this book is a seriously good read. Read it!

But do yourself a favour and keep the lights on.