“Last Sacrifice” by Richelle Mead

This is the last in the Vampire Academy series. I don’t usually review full series but I have been low on books so you guys get reviews for EVERYTHING I read. And I read a lot.

I have slowed down lately because of my meds, but I’m still trying to read as much as possible. Reviews have been slow and far apart, my other reviewers do have their own lives and we are still in the middle of a pandemic (we have entered our …3rd? 4th? lock-down. So …it’s not improving around here). Myself and Lilith are disabled (we also both have our own small businesses), Asteria works for a hospital, and Apollo is an Assistant Manager. As I said, I’m doing the best I can so everyone sticking around and still supporting us means a lot! Eventually we will get back to normal …I hope.

Will I talk about the icky grooming in this review? You bet your ass I will!

This review is OBVIOUSLY going to be filled with spoilers because it is the last in the series, but I promise to not ruin any real surprises.

We are still following Rose and her adventures, and this time, she is accused of killing the Moroi Queen. We all know she didn’t do it, but for some reason there is a lot of damning evidence against her. Locked up and separated from everyone, she sits and tries to figure out how she got there. Up until there is a huge explosion and Dimitri (ex-strigoi thanks to Lissa) comes and breaks her out.

The majority of the book is about Rose and her rag-tag group trying to find a mysterious half-sibling of Lissa’s to help her win a seat on the council (each royal family needs more than one member to be seated on the council, and as far as anyone else knows, Lissa is the last surviving Dragomir). Also, as a way to get more time for Lissa and HER group to find out who framed Rose, they nominate Lissa for Queen. Since Rose can slip into Lissa’s mind, we get to see Lissa’s view as she goes through the trials to be Queen, and what everyone is doing to figure out who framed Rose. It does make it interesting that you get to see the full story, instead of just what Rose and Dimitri are doing and just hearing that Lissa is doing something.

Let’s discuss the love triangle! I read online that there was a “Team Dimitri” versus “Team Adrian” thing going on and all I could think of was “Team possibly-Grooming” versus “Team definitely-Grooming”. They’re both much older men, and Adrian pursued Rose like crazy and created a dating contract and everything. It all felt very icky to me. Normally love triangles just make me roll my eyes, but ones this toxic and gross concern me. It shouldn’t be taught that a man in his 20’s pursuing a 15 – 16 year old girl is okay. Or making the excuse “She’s 18 now!” is also okay. Even Rose’s mother and father treated it like “ho’ hum, silly teens!” Like, no. This is not okay. They were both men of power (Dimitri her TEACHER, and Adrian a Royal Moroi) using that power to seduce an under-aged teen.

If it wasn’t for that, this would have been a better book. When Mead had Rose dating boys her own age, I enjoyed the book more. But then she inevitably brought her back to Dimitri. Dimitri is hot, there is no ifs ands, or buts about it. He’s the strong silent type who can be dark and seductive. There is also the allure of taboo. He’s an older man, they SHOULDN’T be doing that but neither can resist because they are madly in love. I get it. Teens have hormones and this is as close as they can legally get to buying porn. I was a teen once too.

I enjoy the hunting parts, and the mystery, and the lives of the vampires. The world Mead created is interesting and I like this take on Vampires. The “Half-Vampire” thing never works for me because typical vampires are undead. Can’t have babies, but in Mead’s lore the half-vampires (known as Dhampirs) WORK – she explains exactly how it works and since Moroi are alive, she has made vampirism a species, not a disease. So I give her massive credit for that.

Rose is annoying as hell; she’s egotistical, shallow, childish, and rash. But I still like her. Lissa is her complete opposite so it does make for an interesting dynamic. And reminds me of myself and Apollo – we have been friends for 19 years and we still get asked how the hell the two of us are friends because we are complete opposites. So that dynamic DOES happen.

All in all, I enjoyed the series. If it wasn’t icky grooming I’d like it more, but for what it is, I do like it. I think the grooming brings up a talking point, and a way to identify it – because grooming never feels like grooming and society teaches people that attention from older men is a good thing.

If you like the Vampires-in-High-School trend, this is definitely one of the better and more interesting. Read it for Rose and Lissa and the interesting Lore Mead creates. If you want to be on a Team, go for it. This is truly just MY OPINION.

“Shadow and Bone” by Leigh Bardugo: Book VS. TV adaptation

Because of the way I was introduced to this book, I thought it fair to do a comparison of the TV show (which I saw first) and the YA book it was based off of.

Before I get into the review though, I’d like to reiterate my thoughts on TV/Movie adaptations of books. I love adaptations; I love to see what another persons view of the media is – costumes, sets, actors. Yes, I even love the changes they make – to a degree. This is how I feel about it – if the adaptation stays true to the heart of the book, then change away! Writing and Visual media are drastically different, and not just in a “well d’uh” way. Writing can delve into the depth of thought and the depth of scenery, it can point out the ominous signs and the glitter in a characters eye. With TV and Movie, you have to SHOW that, and unless you have a non-stop narrator there’s no inner thought. If you zoom into someone’s face to show emotion, will everyone watching perceive the emotion the same? Will they understand the depth of the scene if they don’t have the character’s monologue? So, there are always a lot of changes to show the things that a book can perfectly explain to you. Not to mention shows are limited to what is physically possible and safely possible. Is their budget big enough to get that nice sweeping shot? Can they be in the proper locations? Is an actor or stunt double willing to be blown up?

Another big edit that I’m usually pretty happy about is travel. How many books have chapters and chapters of characters traveling from one point to another? Game of Thrones (especially the first book, dear lord), Lord of the Rings Trilogy (let’s be real, the first book was 80% walking), just to name a few. But when long scenes are cut out, important dialogue has to be shuffled. Scenes get blended, other scenes get made up, and that’s fine. I forget who the interview was with, but they said the changes made were for the book fans, so they could enjoy it like the first time viewers. So they couldn’t predict every scene and every outcome, and I appreciate that. I admit, some scenes that are added are dumb (IMO) but they do add twists.

Let’s start with the most difficult thing for the show runner to adapt – Shadow and Bone is all from the main characters perspective. In this adaptation you lose Alina’s thoughts on everything, her knowledge, her feelings towards people and scenarios – so they have to figure a way to show these things. Because of that some of her history is lost and her true feelings (yes, she has a crush on Mal – and has forever, but she hates his snoring).

Alina Starkov, in the book, is explained as pale as soured milk, plain looking, with mousey hair. But generally Caucasian. The actress that plays her, Jessie-Mei Li, is Half-Chinese. Through reading the book, I noticed some similarities in Bardugo’s lands, and our own. The people known as the Shu remind me greatly of China, so in the show they made Alina a Shu orphan. I read an article when the show was about to premiere that they wanted to add in that edge, because of everything that was happening in our own lives, they wanted to reflect it. Many shows do that, basically to show how idiotic the situation is. So many times in the show Alina has to deal with ignorance and racism (I did personally feel bad about this because she was already dealing with the pandemic Anti-Asian bullshit. She spoke up a lot about Anti-Hate, and in the show they made her deal with comments on her “Shu eyes” and things like that).

The story actually follows the book incredibly close. Alina Starkov, just one of hundreds of orphans made by the thing called the fold. There is a dark rip in the middle of their continent (world?) filled with horrifying creatures. People still need to travel, life has to continue, so for hundreds of years they have been driving ships across sand and through the fold. How is that possible? By people known as Grisha. Grisha (some nations call they witches and kill them) harness the “small sciences” and can cast and control certain elements. You have the ones that can throw fire, the ones that can create wind (and can cause a squall big enough to blow a full size ship through pure darkness), but then there are ones that can stop your heart and can control your mind. Alina, at least in the beginning of the book, is a simple map maker in the local army. One of her fellow orphans, Mal, is a tracker in the army as well. The two grew up together and have spent every moment together. When Alina could trust no one and felt exiled and alone, there was always Mal.

In one of their postings, the two groups were sent across the fold. They needed to map extra places, especially with War brewing between the two nations. As you can imagine, everything goes horribly wrong and the ship is over run by these monsters, the Volcra. Mal is brutally injured and as Alina is snatched out of his arms a bright light comes from within her.

Our dear Alina is a Grisha – and a special one known as a Sun Summoner. Basically, the only Grisha in the world with the ability to destroy the Shadow Fold. All children are tested as children under the Darkling’s orders (he’s more or less the ruler of the Grisha) and if proven to be Grisha, are brought to him to be trained. Because Alina didn’t want to be separated from Mal, she subconsciously pushed her powers down – in the show because that’s something hard to show visually, she slices her hand to distract herself.

The show cuts out a lot of the travel that Alina and Mal take, but for the most part they follow the same plot path.

I don’t want to give away too many spoilers if you haven’t indulged in this series but otherwise the only BIG change is a character in the book only known as “The Darkling” is given a name.

I loved the show, to be honest I’ve watched is probably half a dozen times. Alina is not a strong character, so in both the book and the show she has to work hard. The book is given more time to show her personal growth and the learning curve – the show we basically get a training montage and move on. The book feels like it takes place over several months, where the show feels like a week. That kind of speeds up relationships and events and some of it gets a little muddled. I love watching characters grow and change and learn, I hate the trend of super-human females who are perfect from the get-go (looking at you live-action Mulan). Woman are humans too, no one is born perfect, we all fuck up and have to learn. That is also what makes an endearing character. Alina is thrown into a world she knows nothing about and has to learn a lot of hard lessons.

Before I forget, a HUGE change between the book and the series is another book in the Grishaverse known as the Six of Crows. They are not in Shadow and Bone, but the writers of the show weaved a completely new story into it. They called it the “prequel” to Six of crows so it doesn’t really change either book storylines drastically. Events were tweaked to include the Crows and it worked with the S&B plot. An example – in the book, the King has a big party with entertainers and all the nobility to show off the Grisha and the brand new Sun Summoner, spoiler events happen and Alina sneaks away into the entertainers wagons as they leave the castle. For the show, they have the Crows infiltrate the entertainers so they can get into that party to try and kidnap Alina. As we follow their plan, one goes awry and kills a handmaid bespelled to look like Alina, while the others get in and get as close to her as they can before the Darkling whisks her away and foils their specially laid out plan. While outside manning their escape vehicle, a Crow notices Alina sneak out and hop into the trunk on the back. Obviously these scenes are different, but in the end they go to the same place – Aline escaping the castle. In the show she then escapes the Crows and heads into a city, once again perfectly matching up with the book storyline. It’s shockingly well done.

As usual though, I recommend both watching the show and reading the book. The book rounds Alina out a little more, and shows a different view of the same scenes. It’s a well written and interesting book and I get upset when I have to put it down and go to bed.

Shadow and Bone is a Trilogy, so it will be interesting to see what the show does when it catches up, and the Six of Crows is so far only 2 books I believe? But they are both part of a series known as the Grishaverse. You damn well know that once I’m done the S&B series I’m getting the Six of Crows, I actually enjoyed their characters and heists more than Alina’s story.

“Spirit Bound” by Richelle Mead

Yes, I am still frighteningly low on books. My partner now works out of town so I get out even less, meaning I will probably be reviewing full series.

This one is book 5 in the Vampire Academy series and a LITTLE less creepy than the last few. Rose has graduated and is now out in the real world. Unfortunately, her record means she will probably be stuck sorting files for the rest of her life, instead of guarding Lissa.

Continuing on from the last book, the girls believe they have a way to cure the Strigoi, but they have to do some pretty shady things to get that information. Namely, breaking Lissa’s “uncle” and abuser, Victor, out of a high security prison. As you can imagine, this is a common trope in many books where a gaggle of teens can outsmart a high security anything successfully. If it’s that easy, it’s clearly not high security. But, there wouldn’t be a book without it. They break him out, take him to the only person alive who has cured a Strigoi, lose the criminal, and then go back to court to plan and figure out how to cure a Strigoi. Namely, Dimitri. Rose’s trainer and ex-lover. You know, the pedophile groomer. That one. In this book Rose is also dating Adrian, creating a standard love triangle.

The beginning of the book was groan worthy with teens being able to outsmart trained professionals, but the middle of the book blew by! I had to sit outside of my house for 4 hours a little while ago and I spent the entire time reading, I didn’t want to put the book down.

With the girls out of school, the book is able to delve much deeper into Moroi politics and the ways their world works. This puts both Rose and Lissa into situations they don’t know how to get out of. The change does make it interesting, but sadly Rose seems to be declining in her maturity. She was already borderline annoying, but now she has gone full force crazy ex-girlfriend. That is my one glaring complaint, Rose doesn’t have to be perfect, but she can have some self respect.

I am still enjoying this series, even with it’s icky moments and irritating character developments. I have this entire series plus the ones that come after it about different characters, I do believe. So, we won’t be getting away from Vampire Academy any time soon. Thankfully Mead is a good writer.

“The Dysasters” by P.C.Cast and Kristin Cast

Once again, a Cast book. I always try to give her books a fair shot because SOMETIMES they are really good (Like Moon Chosen, it was great!).

It’s basically about a scientist who bonded children with the elements. His first projects are slowly going insane, so when he tried the experiment again, he created two children to balance out one another with the element. The story follows Foster, who is on the run from the scientist with her adoptive mother Cora …who happens to be the wife of the scientist. Everything changes when the original four finds them and attacks right when they meet the other half of Fosters element – Tate. The rest of the story follows them as they run from the original four and try to find the other elements.

I’m on the fence about this book. It’s not BAD. But it’s not super great.

It sounds like it would be great, but the book is a whole lot of nothing really happening. The characters aren’t endearing enough to really carry a shitty plot line (like Cassandra Clare’s can) so I found the book lacking.

Then, Cast tried to science out how the children were made. He bonded Foster and Tate when they were still in the embryo with O2 and shot them with Gamma Rays. I wanted to curl up with all my science books and cry. O2, H2O …but I’m curious what chemical they go with for fire since fire is a reaction, not a periodic element. And for earth …which one? Earth as in soil? Rocks? Which rock? What kind of soil? The original four are going insane from their abilities; one sees weird creatures, one is fading I think, and Eve – the earth controller, spawns tumors made of gems and it’s slowly killing her. Her father, the scientist, draws the power of her gemstones from her to get them off of her body, but he is also addicted to the high he gets from it.

Caught all that?

It’s an interesting IDEA, I just don’t think it was executed completely well.

There were some things I liked about the book! I promise! One of the children bonded with water is actually transgender, so that was really cool! She might not have been a MAIN character, but she was important, not just a throw away character like other series have done.

Her writing feels a LITTLE adult, there is a fair amount of swearing (I KNOW teens swear, believe me, I was the champ at it, but sometimes it’s a little much) but she didn’t dive into the sexual aspect as much as her House of Night series, which was nice. The kids started calling the original four the ‘fucktastic four’, and I was going to make a joke at the expense of it …then I remembered a while ago I was talking to my husband about something and came out with ‘fucktardians of the galaxy’ so I really have no room to complain.

For a YA book it’s not bad, the characters aren’t too cliche, it’s a little predictable, but it’s a decent brainless read.

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs

This is something you are going to learn about me quick – if a movie is based off a book, I watch the movie first then read the book. This is actually how I find most books to read. This book was no different. I had watched the movie numerous times and really enjoyed it, so decided to give the book a try. I don’t think I can ever go back and watch the movie ever again.

The story is written from the perspective of Jacob Portman, who goes by Jake, as he learns of the existence of children with special abilities, or peculiarities, and what it means about himself. The book really is broken up into three sections of plot. The first third is Jake listening to his grandfather’s stories about the Peculiars as he grew. Like every child, he stops believing in his grandfather’s tales once he gets to a certain age, and he can never really understand why his grandfather is so adamant he knows about these children. As a child Jake believes them to be fairy tales and make believe, as a pre-teen and teenager he starts seeing his grandfather’s stories as lies. That is until the unthinkable happens and Jake witnesses his grandfather being murdered by creatures that no one else can see. Which propels the story into the second third of the book. The second act is Jake dealing with his grandfather’s death. Mainly it’s about Jake going to therapy and the different techniques they use to help him deal with the trauma of having his grandfather die in his arms. The third act in the plot starts when Jake and his father travel from their home in Florida to Wales for Jake to try and learn about the home and the children.

This is where the story really starts to pick up, and I can see why the movie chose to really start at this point. I remember texting Artemis while I was reading this book and commenting on how amazing the author was by spending so much of the book setting up everything to the point the reader doesn’t even realize it’s taken about half the book for the plot to get started. The story is invigorating and all the characters in the town and the home are totally unique. The reader feels for them when the horror starts to bleed from the imaginary into the modern world and effect this little town on a far-off island off the coast of Wales.

As Jake learns his family’s story and the truth about himself, he is faced with some incredibly hard-hitting choices that lead him on the adventure of a lifetime.

There are some major changes from the book to the movie, Emma’s and Olive’s characters and peculiarities are completely switched, I have no idea why the movie producers felt the need to do that. I was also impressed by something that would seem odd, there is some swearing in the book. Not a lot, but enough to remind the reader they are reading a story from a sixteen-year old’s point of view. I used to volunteer with teenagers that ranged from fourteen to eighteen, every single one of them swore. That’s what teenagers do. It makes everything seem more real to me. It makes it so that I can relate to these characters more since they seem more human.

All in all, I loved the book and now I understand the amount of praise this series has gotten. The characters and the story are unique yet relatable. Yes, there are some predictable parts to the story, but really they just make you relate and love the characters more. I plan to read the rest of the series, as I love reading book series over stand-alone books. Though the book has ruined the movie for me, I’m extremely glad it did.

“Blood Promise” by Richelle Mead

Books are getting low. So yes, I will be reviewing ENTIRE series. I’m sorry.

When I started this series it was fun, standard typical vampire YA. Interesting ideas, relatively interesting characters, decent writing, interesting plot.

…But then, the ick happened.

Grooming. Statutory Rape. Under-age Sex. Teacher – Student relations. Pick your terminology.

If they had kept it a harmless crush, or dancing around a bit, fine. But the moment Rose entered an actual sexual relationship with Dimitri it got a little too ick for me. When she was put under his care she was about 16? He is 7 years her senior. They trained together, and when she was closer to 17, they started sleeping together. It is wrong on many levels. Too many stories are coming out about men using their power (managers, bossed, mentors, etc) to manipulate and assault the younger people coming into that industry. It’s sexual assault no matter how you frame it but this book romanticizes it.

At the end of the last book …

… *SPOILERS* …

Dimitri was turned into a Strigoi – which is a type of vampire that feeds on other vampires. Basically, what people like rose and Dimitri are trained to hunt to the keep the Moroi (true Vampires) safe. Dhampirs and Moroi can willingly turn into Strigoi, or they can be forced into it. The ones that are turned forcefully usually let it know amongst their other Guardians that they want to be executed if it ever happened to them. That is the case with this book. Dimitri let it be known to Rose that he would rather be dead.

And thus, this book starts with Rose completely bailing out of school and abandoning Lisa to look for Dimitri to kill him. I have so many issues with this book, I feel like such a jack-ass since I relatively enjoy these books. I’ll just point form the things that made me mad before I prattle on about the actual plot.

  1. Rose doesn’t know where Dimitri is, she is acting on a hunch that sends her to RUSSIA. She also refuses to tell anyone where she is so they can’t find her and stop her.

2. She left right before her graduating, ending her potential career as a Guardian. Unless she pretends to be human and joins their world, her options are basically Mercenary or Prostitute.

3. She abandoned Lissa. The girl she has known most of her life, who literally raised her from the dead and bonded the two of them together. The girl she had originally ran from the school with to protect.

4. She’s 17 turning 18. She’s a child.

5. She went without a plan, just a general idea, to the other end of the world. To kill a guy that was already stronger than her, and now has Strigoi strength.

6. She met Dimitri’s family and they thought their relationship was wonderful and they introduced her to another Shadow-Kissed couple that are married and years apart. Romanticizing this type of relationship is damaging to younger audiences. When the hot 20-something starts hitting on them they think it’s true love and books like this make it seem okay. Yes, my husband and I are 6 years apart, but I met him when I was 27! We make jokes about the age gap when we were younger and if I hadn’t been in my late 20s, it would have been gross.

Rose gets attacked by some Strigoi and because of her ramblings when she was unconscious, she was brought to Dimitri’s family. From there she is introduced to his mother and sisters, as well as his Grandmother, and a strange non-royal Moroi named Abe.

The story gets more into the Shadow-Kissed and spirit user thing, but every decision Rose made was just bad and really just highlighted that she’s a snotty brat who is always used to getting her way.

I do enjoy the series, and I won’t let this book turn me sour for the rest of them. But if you are reading this book, just be aware that it’s not aging well.

“The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman

I’ve been recently delving more in Neil Gaiman because I’ve always come across his books and I’ve heard nothing but praise for his work. And even though Sir Pratchett helped him write Good Omens, it was an incredible book (I do believe I reviewed it here), and created a need to read everything by both of them (I’ve read a few by Pratchett but I need more, I do believe I have reviews here for “colour of magic”).

I heard a lot about the Graveyard Book, enough that WITHOUT READING IT, we bought it for one of my husbands kids. But naturally …I wanted to read it too. So, we picked it up and it got tucked into my husbands reading shelf and forgotten. Yes, we both have shelves on our sides of the bed of books we want to read.

Fast forward to now when everything is closed and I’m running out of things to read. I happened to glance at my husbands side of the bed (he’s been out of town for work since January) and noticed two dusty covered books. A Dean Koontz, and this lovely gem. I grabbed it right away and set down to reading.

Immediately, like, literally first page, I’m thrown back to the 80s and early 90s to the era of Goosebumps, are you afraid of the dark (was that just a Canadian thing?), and tales from the crypt keeper. Back to a time where children’s shows were allowed to be creepy and scary, where they had deeper topics (granted, some kids shows are amazing for their messages) and pushed the buck a little further than they are allowed today.

And by that I mean, the book opens to a mysterious man wandering through the house of people he just murdered (a husband, wife, and elder daughter) looking for the toddler that escaped his notice. Down the hill from the house was a cemetery with an old crumbling chapel and the child wandered through the open door and down into the graveyard. The man Jack (that’s his name “the man jack”, he’s rarely referred to as just “Jack”) realized the child escaped and pursued him down into the graveyard.

The child is approached by two …residents of the graveyard, Mr and Mrs Owens, who notice something is amiss. The man is hunting around the graveyard, and is clearly chasing the child. Enveloping the toddler in her arms Mrs Owens disappears, taking the toddler with her. And yes, they are ghosts.

This starts the story of Nobody “Bod” Owens.

Bod is raised in the graveyard, taught ghostly magic (because the graveyard is protecting him, he is safe from all manner of ghosties, for the most part, and can fade, cause fear, dream walk, and several other tricks), and his mortal traits are looked after by his mysterious guardian Silas. Silas is neither alive nor dead, as are several of the characters that come in and out of Bods life.

The book is written almost like a TV series, each chapter is a different period in Bod’s life. Each chapter is essentially it’s own story, like Bod encountering ghouls, or finally entering the world to help buy a tombstone for a friend he made. Even though they are written like small segments, characters are consistent, and there is the constant threat that he isn’t allowed to leave the graveyard because outside of it they can’t protect him.

This is very clearly a 9 – 12 book, but Gaiman’s writing is amazing enough I think anyone can really enjoy it. It reminded me SO strongly of my childhood I almost got whiplash. I was the kid that would SEARCH for the horror and the creepy books, who snuck downstairs to watch Spawn when I was like 6. Some kids are just creepy, and this book embraces that, but also shows Bod conquering fear and showing that these ghosts, while scary, were once people. That the things that go bump in the night might just be a friend or ally in waiting if you take the time and patience to learn about them. Don’t judge the witch in the tree, or the scary noise in the corner of a dark room.

“Queen of Shadows” by Sarah J. Maas

I’m sorry this review wasn’t posted yesterday. I was laid up with a migraine again (either injection induced, weather fluctuation induced, or just a general ‘fuck you’ from my Fibro) so there was absolutely no way I was writing anything.

This is becoming a familiar title because I absolutely LOVE this series. I remember the first book was good, but could have been better, and it’s like she used the first book to feel out the characters and scenarios she was creating, and then just barreled on ahead. Plot wise, she might be a little predictable, but when it comes to the characters and what happens to them, she’s not quite as predictable.

This is book Four of the series, and takes place back in Adarlan with Aelin’s return. Aelin is Celaena’s real name – Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen.

To summarize up her history, her family was murdered by the King of Adarlan, and she was left in a frozen river to die. From there she was found by the King of Assassins Arobynn. He took her family amulet, and trained her to be the assassin she is today. In the last book she learned that amulet was actually a piece she needed to defeat the King and his plans.

His plans so far are to raise an army of Valg demons and Princes to take over the world. Through special black collars and rings, they can force these Valg into human bodies, as long as the bodies have ties to magic. The King locked magic away, and even though people can’t USE their magic, that doesn’t mean it’s not locked somewhere deep inside them. One thing that shocked me in the last book, was he clamped a collar on his son Dorian. The collars are needed to hold the Valg Princes (rings are the minor Valg), and with Dorian’s magic abilities strong enough to overpower whatever dampens them in the country, he was a prime choice. I should have expected it, but I just figured with him being a main character and a previous love interest, he was safe from anything too bad. I was wrong.

The first book started standard typical, girl has a crush on pretty Prince, but starts to fall for the rugged Captain of the Guard who is training her. It was so cliche I just kind of rolled my eyes. But Maas crushed those relationships. Aelin and Dorian became more like siblings; Chaol and Aelin went from lovers, to enemies, to barely tolerating one another. The triangle that YA loves so much was set up, and then smashed to pieces and that was when I was starting to realize this book series wasn’t as predictable as I was expecting. Aelin was sent by the King to assassinate another Royal family and that was where she met Rowan. She left him there because magic still existed in that area and he was far from the King (aka safe), as she went back to find Arobynn.

Another thing I found interesting is in the first book, it was rife with girl-hate, which we all know is my least favorite thing. Book four throws that narrative out the window. Girls are saving girls just because they need saving, girls are being friends with girls even if they have the same history with a boy, girls are mending broken relationships of the past and becoming stronger friends …and I am here for this shit! I love seeing the “girls hating girls for plot” BS thrown out. I’m so tired of it. Once upon a time (and probably still) people believed women couldn’t truly have friends because they were too catty. Only men could forge true friendships. That girl-hate perpetuated by mass media just reinforced the narrative. So to see it turned and showing true and beautiful friendships either starting or being mended between women is amazing!

The last two books have been telling more of the story through different points of view, one of them being Manon Blackbeak. Wing Leader of the Kings Wyvern army. In this book her story and Aelin’s story finally meet. I love Manon and everything about her and her 13. They are ruthless, cruel, cold, and strong. She is basically ice to Aelin’s fire (yes, I am aware of how corny that sounds, but I can’t think of a better analogy). But through Manon we get to see a different side of the King’s plan that Aelin doesn’t. It rounds out the story and drives up the terror of what he plans to do. Building an army is one thing …what he is doing to the witches is something completely different. And what is Manon’s Grandmother, who is the High Witch of all the clans, making for him?

I can rave forever about these stupid books, I love them that much. No they’re not the most amazing book ever written, but they are well written, interesting, fast-paced, with enough weird stuff mixed in to keep it interesting.

“Shadow Kiss” by Richelle Mead

I know, I don’t usually post series this close together but the book situation in my house is a little dire. So you may be getting similar books back to back for a little while.

So, yes, I’ve been reading Vampire Academy practically back to back. Book three, “Shadow Kiss” continues on the story of Rose and Lissa, and their relationships and diving further into what being “shadow-kissed” means. A bit of a spoiler if you haven’t read the reviews or the books, but when the girls were younger, Lissa’s entire family was killed in a car crash. Rose was also in that car crash, and died. But Lissa, in the midst of panic and despair, brought her back from the dead. This created a bond between the girls, more than “friends”. Rose can slip in and out of Lissa’s mind, she can sense her emotions and energy, and in this book, she learns that she can pull out the depression from Lissa that Spirit magic creates. The girls do more research in this book, about Lord Vladimir and his guardian Anna. Anna drew out Vladimir’s “insanity” after every time he used spirit, and it drove her to commit suicide. This series doesn’t shy away from depression, suicide, and therapy. I will give it credit for that.

While that is a sub-plot of the book that has so far been carried through the first three books, it is not the main story. After the last book with Moroi and Dhampir wanting to fight together against the Strigoi, that has continued through the students creating a division of power. Rose noticed that some students were showing up covered in wounds, and refusing to explain how a third degree burn came from falling down the stairs.

With this new threat from among the student body, the Guardians final test where they shadow a Moroi while senior Guardians pretend to be Strigoi and “attack” the Moroi, the trial of Lissa’s Uncle (and the “bad guy” from book 1), and lastly Rose seeing ghosts, the book is constantly moving.

While I do enjoy these books, this one hit the ick factor for me a little too hard. In the bast two books, Rose was developing a crush and somewhat of a relationship with her much older Guardian Trainer Dimitri. She’s 17 (on the verge of turning 18 – but still), and he’s about 25 or so? So in legal terms, that’s statutory rape, which was even brought up during the trial (Victor trying to throw shade just to mess with Rose and Dimitri). I understand the point of it, this idea is in every piece of media ever. The guy falling in love with her for her “maturity” and whatever, doesn’t make it less icky. In this book they finally have sex and realize they want a relationship, and he’s in love with her, blah-blah …it’s also called grooming. And still icky. I’m probably part of a minority that has an issue with this, but a little while ago in the twittersphere many people (especially artists I adore) were talking about how superiors coerced them into relationships, they talked about the manipulation and grooming that happened in all these fields, and how commonplace it is. Even some YouTubers I enjoyed were revealed to be groomers. So I have no tolerance for that kind of thing. It really soured me for the book so while I enjoyed the story, I couldn’t forgive it for that.

The series is still a great quick brainless read if like me, you can’t resist a decently written vampire story.

“Vampire Academy” by Richelle Mead

When I started getting into vampires it was back in the beginning of the 90s, where vampires were monsters. Literally, I wrote a story when I was 5 (I think, I was in the 4 – 6 range) about hunting vampires (you’re damn straight my mom got a phone call from worried teachers). From there, in my high school days, I got a little more into vampires outside of “standard monsters” when I started reading Anne Rice. The next trend in vampires was vampires in High School, and that’s about when I noped the f*ck out.

Unfortunately, I can never stay away from my favorite monsters turned romantic interest and will sometimes pick up a high school vampires story. One such series, is Vampire Academy. I saw it when I worked at the book store, but after reading Twilight (only half of my own free will, the other half I had nothing else to read and someone I worked with made me borrow them) and the house of Night (only the first book, I couldn’t kill enough brain cells to read the second one) I no longer wanted to dally in high school vampires.

Fast forward to today when …I’m running out of things to read and a friend made me borrow them. Yeah, there’s a trend. But, I will say this right now …this book is not half bad. I wasn’t sure what to expect since it is a super popular series, but genuinely enjoying it was not what I was prepared for.

Mead builds a world where it’s not just your typical Vampires vs Humans thing. There are different branches of Vampires (and a whole biological thing about how they breed – instead of just “vampires go wheee”); the Moroi which are your standard “Vampires”, and the Dhampir – half-vampires. Now, some hardcores like myself might go “you can’t have HALF a dead thing!” but that is where Mead changes the narrative. Moroi and Dhampir are LIVING Vampires. They are a species instead of a disease. But the third type of vampire is more like the kind we are familiar with. Known as Strigoi, they are “dead” vampires …and can be created several ways. When a Moroi kills a person and takes their blood, or if someone is bitten and turned. Moroi and Dhampir can both become Strigoi. They are faster, stronger, and have a natural drive to hunt and kill Moroi. Which is the basis for their entire society. Dhampir are important to the Moroi because they are the ones who become Guardians. They are fast and strong, and with their human genes don’t have a lot of the downfalls (like light sensitivity) of Moroi. Moroi are also willowy and small, not always great for defending against larger predators. But they have a symbiotic relationship because Dhampir are created from Moroi, and the Moroi need Dhampir to survive the Strigoi.

This leads to the ACADEMY part of it. Moroi and Dhampir children are sent to the same schools, to learn together, but Dhampir children obviously have special classes where they learn to be Guardians. The story follows Rose and Lissa, Dhampir and Moroi. In the beginning the girls are out on their own, pretending to be high school students living on campus. Up until a pack of Guardians finds them and brings them back. The girls had escaped the Academy, which was nearly impossible, and had hidden themselves away. But Rose refused to tell why she had spirited the vampire princess away.

It is slowly revealed that the girls have a special connection, one deeper than Guardian and Royal. That connection is what spurred Rose to take Lissa away – and something a little deeper. Rose can feel Lissa’s emotions, and when she concentrates, she can slip into Lissa’s head and see everything she sees. Lissa is also special in her own way – Moroi can use magic, but they are strictly elemental magic users. Except Lissa. Everyone thinks she is just a late bloomer, having not found an elemental affinity, but instead, she can heal and she can use her compulsion on other vampires.

The story revolves around Rose trying to find out what is happening between her and Lissa, since there are only a few cases of either ability in their entire history (one being St. Vladimir himself), and trying to learn her place as a Guardian.

Like I said, I actually enjoyed this book. It was still 90% high school vampire fluff but once you look past the tropes and stereotypes, it was a fun quick read!