Sunday, 22 June 2014

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead and Emma Vieceli

I didn't expect to like this book as much as I did. The title is so cheesy. I think it's intentionally cheasy though. I chose it because I wanted a fun book to read instead of something so serious.

Not only was the book a fun read it was finally a very different take on vampires. I've been searching for a series that doesn't follow the cliche formula regarding vampires, especially teenage vampires.
Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. The Dhampir protect the Moroi from the "evil vampires" called Strigoi. Moroi vampires are good, peaceful, and have magical abilities but are not immprtal while the Strigoi are more your cliche bloodthirsty immortal vampire. The girls have been on the run foe two years from their boarding school but the school authorities have finally caght up with them and am forcing them to retrn to St. Vladimir’s. Unfortunately, this is the least safe place for Lissa. It's also a social nightmare with cliques and"queen bees" just like any normal high school.

I liked that the book had mystery and adventure along with the clique wars and some Harry Potter-like magic thrown in. Rose is kind of an underdog as a guardian. She has used her street smarts to protect Lissa despite never having been formally trained  At first I thought she was entirely shallow but my favorite thing about her is that she truly makes protecting Lissa a priority no matter what's going on with the friendship. That also happens to be her fatal flaw because she tries to control Lissa too much. Actually Lissa used to be "queen bee" at the school and has to deal with her jealousy when Lissa replaces her.

I liked the romance between Rose and Dimitri but I did find the age difference to be just a little bit on the creepy side. My favorite character was Christian but I'm always drawn to the misunderstood bad boy with a heart of cold. The villian behind the whole mystery was rather unexpected and a good plot twist.

Even though I enjoyed this book there were a lot of things I didn't understand or like. Here's a list:

  • Why are the Moroi and Strigoi feuding in the first place? What's the history behind this vampire conflict? 
  • Why are there two races of vampire and where id they come from?
  • Vampires are Christians and go to church? I can accept that they may go to church but wouldn't they be more likely to have a religion of their own? 
  • Morai are magical vampires but can't protect themselves? They need half-human guardians who have to learn combat skills and use weapons against the superpowerful Strigoi? This isn't even believable.
  • Lissa is a cutter. While I thought this part of the story was done pretty well, at the same time I felt is didn't belong in a vampire fantasy novel. 
I liked this book enough that I want to read the entire series. My rating  Photobucket

The Movie
I knew the movie had bad reviews but I never expected it to be so bad. The actors and actresses did what they could with the script but the writing was just atrocious. There were some clever one liners but it overall it was pretty hard to sit through. The book was so much better.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Feature and Follow Friday

Question of the Week: What are your non-book guilty pleasures? Like TV shows, food, websites, hobbies, etc.

My guilty pleasures are The Vampire Diaries, Game of Thrones, @Midnight, Downton Abbey, cake (but only for the icing), Pinterest, and Hollywood gossip.

In my most recent review of The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening by L.J. Smith I talked about how I'm such a huge fan of The Vampire Diaries, in particular Ian Somerhalder, that I have fanart of Damon and Elena as my computer wallpaper and a Damon t-shirt that I was literally wearing yesterday.

As for Game of Thrones, the theme song is my ringback tone for my cellphone.

Sometimes I participate in the @Midnight hashtag wars using my main Twitter.

As for Downton Abbey, I am so hooked on the show that I will have watched all four seasons in only two weeks. (I still have disc 3 of season three and all of season four to watch.)

The Rules of Feature & Follow Friday:
To join the fun and make new book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
  1. (Required) Follow the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts {Parajunkee & Alison Can Read}
  2. (Required) Follow our Featured Bloggers
  3. Put your Blog name & URL in the Linky thing. You can also grab the code if you would like to insert it into your posts.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say "hi" in your comments and that they are now following you.
  5. If you are using WordPress or another CMS that doesn't have GFC (Google Friends Connect) state in your posts how you would like to be followed
  6. Follow Follow Follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "HI"
  7. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the Love...and the followers
  8. If you're new to the Follow Friday hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!

Thursday, 5 June 2014

The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening by L. J. Smith (contains spoilers)

Book Description from
A deadly love triangle Elena: beautiful and popular, the girl who can have any guy she wants. Stefan: brooding and mysterious, desperately trying to resist his desire for Elena . . . for her own good. Damon: sexy, dangerous, and driven by an urge for revenge against Stefan, the brother who betrayed him. Elena finds herself drawn to both brothers . . . who will she choose?
I am a huge fan of the TV series The Vampire Diaries. It's embarrassing to admit considering I'm 38 yrs old but I completely fangirl over Ian Somerhalder. My computer background is fanart of Elena and Damon. Yesterday I was wearing a Damon t-shirt. If you ask me about the most recent season finale I may choke up a bit. I'm still traumatized.

Because of the heartbreaking season finale, I decided to keep myself busy reading The Vampire Diaries novel series. Unfortunately most of the first book left me feeling anything but anxious to read the rest of the series.

Elena Gilbert is the queen bee of her school who can have whatever boy she wants. So when the mysterious Stefan Salvatore starts school and completely ignores her, she makes it her mission to make him her boyfriend. The reason Stefan ignores her is because, as a vampire, every time he's near her he can't think straight because all he wants to do is taste her blood. She also happens to look like the woman who broke his heart in a love triangle with his vampire brother about 500 years ago. 

Elena is pretty much unlikable. She's vain, cares too much about her status in the popular clique she's in, and spends an unbelievable amount of money on a custom made Halloween costume then admiring how beautiful she looks in said costume. Most people who read the book complain about Elena's character but I think they forget this is a book series. If the character did a 180 and became a different person in the first book what's left for her to do in the rest of the series? I am going to read on only because I hope Elena grows as a character into someone well...not so shallow.

As a fan of the TV show one thing that I love is the supporting characters. In the book, all the same names are there but very little is written about them. The other characters don't factor into the story much and are never developed.

Stefan finally starts paying attention to Elena when she is a damsel in distress and he needs to rescue her when a drunken Tyler tries to rape her. Yes, you read that right. The main character is almost raped! After Stefan rescues her he beats Tyler almost to a bloody pulp. Yet neither of them get in trouble with the police. Elena refuses to press charges against Matt and the police are too busy dealing with a dead homeless man that got his throat ripped out.

The love story left me rolling my eyes most of the time. Elena instantly fell in love with Stefan declaring how much she loved him only days after they have had their first kiss. There is absolutely no development of their relationship even though months go by.

Nor is there any buildup of Elena suspecting that Stefan is a vampire. Almost the whole story is just utterly boring. Even Catherine is boring. She's a sweet and innocent vampire who just couldn't decide between brothers. Anyone who watches the tv show can't possibly imagine Catherine as sweet and innocent much less boring. I'm hoping the bad ass version of Catherine is in the later books.

The novel's saving grace is Damon. Damon is just as sexy, dark and tempting as he is in the tv series. What's even better is that I didn't have to wait several seasons before Damon and Elena are attracted to each other. The attraction is there from the first time they meet. In fact, Damon makes it his mission to make Elena his. Whether it's because he's truly in love with her or doing it as revenge on his brother isn't clear. At one point the vampire brothers are literally fighting for Elena. That scene alone made up for the rest of the book being dreadfully boring and pretty predictable. (It wasn't hard to figure out who really was the murderer.)

Not to mention that Damon has magical powers in the book. He can shapeshift into animals and control the weather. Why wasn't that in the tv show?

I will continue reading the book series mostly for the character of Damon but do hope Elena becomes a better person. Stefan's character is mildly interesting. As for the rest of the book and characters, it just, forgive the pun...sucked.
My rating Photobucket

Sunday, 1 June 2014

The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David Meredith

Book Description from
What happens when "happily ever after" has come and gone? 

On the eve of her only daughter, Princess Raven's wedding, an aging Snow White finds it impossible to share in the joyous spirit of the occasion. The ceremony itself promises to be the most glamorous social event of the decade. Snow White’s castle has been meticulously scrubbed, polished and opulently decorated for the celebration. It is already nearly bursting with jubilant guests and merry well-wishers. Prince Edel, Raven's fiancĂ©, is a fine man from a neighboring kingdom and Snow White's own domain is prosperous and at peace. Things could not be better, in fact, except for one thing: 

The king is dead. 

The queen has been in a moribund state of hopeless depression for over a year with no end in sight. It is only when, in a fit of bitter despair, she seeks solitude in the vastness of her own sprawling castle and climbs a long disused and forgotten tower stair that she comes face to face with herself in the very same magic mirror used by her stepmother of old. 

It promises her respite in its shimmering depths, but can Snow White trust a device that was so precious to a woman who sought to cause her such irreparable harm? Can she confront the demons of her own difficult past to discover a better future for herself and her family? And finally, can she release her soul-crushing grief and suffocating loneliness to once again discover what "happily ever after" really means? 

Only time will tell as she wrestles with her past and is forced to confront The Reflections of Queen Snow White.

Since starting this blog I have been asked to do book reviews on occasion. I usually said no because of one simple reason. I didn't have an eReader. Then a few months ago I started reading a few books that I bought from Amazon on the Kindle for iPhone app. I enjoyed this so much I started borrowing my son's iPad to read books. And I loved it! There was one big problem with that. My son had to give his iPad back to the school because the school year was ending. So I spent a tense few days trying to find the cheapest Kindle I could on eBay. I managed to find a 2nd Generation Kindle (the original eReader) for under $30 including shipping.

Why am I telling you all this? Because in celebration of getting a Kindle, I decided to finally say yes to a request for a book review. The book is The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David Meredith. This book made me realize how I've really been missing out on eBooks. I was rather adamant about sticking with paper books and I realize now that my refusal to get with the times has made many wonderful books unavailable to me. I couldn't have picked a better book to "break in" my Kindle.

I wonder how much David Meredith knew about me when he asked me to review his book. Did he know that I'm a widow just like Snow White? Did he know that I have suffered with prolonged grief and severe depression just like Snow White? I never anticipated how personal reading this story would seem. Reading this book was like reading about some of my own experiences and that's quite unexpected considering it's a fairy tale.

I guess that's the thing about fairy tales. They contain universal truths. I don't know how much experience or knowledge Meredith has with childhood abuse, infertility, widowhood, severe depression, or women's self esteem but he nails it. When a man perfectly describes a woman's experience I can't help but be impressed.

While you and I would visit a therapist (i.e a complete stranger), Snow White has something even better. Snow White has a magic mirror that shows her only what is a reflection of her. The magic mirror never lies but instead shows Snow White the many truths about herself, her past, and her life that she refuses to face. This magic mirror knows her better than she knows herself.

Ultimately, the book is about coming to terms with life's challenges, letting go of the past, and finding forgiveness. This book wasn't just entertaining to me. It was therapy!

I do have to admit there were times when I wanted to just shake Snow White while yelling "Have confidence in yourself! Just be happy!" but that is the nature of grief and depression. It's a black cloud that follows one everywhere. No one gets better unless they choose to get better. Happiness is a choice. It was wonderful to read a story about someone healing from the monster that is grief and depression. So many books about widows end up with healing coming from finding romance and a new love. In this book, Snow White finds it in herself.

I do have a few minor criticisms. The book could have used a bit more proofreading. Sometimes I thought characters talked too long. I wish Meredith would have included some scenes of how Snow White came to be taken in by the dwarfs. I would have liked to know more about Arglist and what happened in her life to make her so cruel and abusive. What was her experience with the truth telling magic mirror? Arglist's story would make a great prequel. (Hint. Hint.)

I don't give out five star ratings often. I only give them to books that are either so entertaining I was sad when the book ended or to books that touch me on a very deep level. I would by lying if I said this book didn't affect me deeply. I don't have a magic mirror, but this story made me want to look at my own experiences and my own truths so that I can find healing too. This book made me consider my own experiences with prolonged grief and severe depression. Most of all it did something most books about widows don't do and that is share the lesson that healing comes from within, not from finding new romance and love.  My rating Photobucket

David Meredith has a website and also a Facebook page. His book can be purchased here.

I was given a copy of the book for an honest review. No other compensation was received.