Richelle Mead and The Circle of Life: Bloodlines and Succubus Revealed
September 6, 2011

If Richelle Mead published her grocery lists, I would buy them and read them and love them.  I would seek out the international editions and marvel at the beautiful cover art. I feel sure that they would contain clever commentary and sarcastic statements and eventually break my heart and make me cry…

Thankfully, Richelle publishes actual books. Entire series, in fact.

Just as life is filled with beginnings and endings – each bitter and sweet in its own way – in the last two weeks Richelle has published a book which starts a new series – Bloodlines – and a book to end a series – Succubus Revealed.

Oh yeah, and she had a baby too. Not a bad month, even for a Book Goddess!

The Bloodlines series is a spin-off of the greatest YA Paranormal series in the history of the world (yeah, I said it) – Vampire Academy. VA is a lesson in not judging a book series by its embarrassing cover art, but also not allowing Oneself to be turned off or confused by fancy words like “Strigoi” and Moroi” and thinking that One will not not like this book filled with unfamiliar words and bound by a cover which features a terrible red-toned picture of a model who looks like a 1990s Angelina Jolie – and not in a good way. However, once One has moved beyond One’s prejudices and misgivings, One will fall in love with rebellious, ass-kicking Rose Hathaway and her friends and classmates at St. Vladimir’s Academy. One may even find Oneself crying inconsolably in the middle of the night while breathlessly reading certain volumes in the six book series.

Bloodlines features characters from the VA universe, but focuses on Sydney Sage – a teenaged human girl who is part of a secret society sworn to protect the human race from the knowledge and influence of vampires. Sydney has been assigned to protect a vampire princess – Jill Dragomir – from an assassination which – if successful – could throw the vampire world into a turmoil so great that it could not be hidden from the human world.

Thankfully, said protecting takes place at a human boarding school in California, and features everyone’s favorite scorned bad-boy vampire – Adrian Ivashkov – in all his hard-drinking, cigarette-smoking, sarcastically sexy glory.

While many of the characters are familiar to fans of VA, there are new characters and places to learn about – so Bloodlines is light on the heart-breaking and nail-biting usually associated with a Richelle Mead novel. Its cool, though. I am already imagining the places on my heart Richelle is aiming for, and how it will hurt so good and I will cry so hard and curse the long months between books.

Succubus Revealed is the final volume in Richelle’s super-adult series about reluctant Seattle succubus, Georgina Kincaid. When I say “super-adult” I mean that every book features at least one very sexually explicit chapter. If you don’t like that sort of thing, steer clear – or just skip that chapter, because these books are so good I would hate for the prudes of the world to miss out on Georgina’s adventures in Heaven, Hell and cocktails.

Georgina is an immortal shapeshifter who sold her soul to Hell, in exchange for the husband she betrayed forgetting she ever existed. She has spent the centuries an employee of the bureaucracy of Hell, where she is assigned to use sex to steal the energy and corrupt the souls of mortal men. In her current incarnation, Georgina manages a cool bookstore in Seattle and while Hell would prefer that she seek out pure souls to corrupt, she prefers to corrupt only the already corrupted.

For a girl who makes her living screwing strangers, she’s surprisingly funny and likeable. Her friends – human, damned and otherwise –  are equally engaging and interesting. Its hard to hate a girl who introduced me to both the vodka gimlet and the white chocolate mocha.

Succubus Revealed wraps up the frustrating and star-crossed romance between Georgina and mortal author Seth Mortensen. The troubled relationship between Georgina and Seth is the heart of this series, but as with VA, secondary characters like Carter – an angel with a taste for liquor – and Jerome – the Arch Demon of Seattle who is a dead ringer for John Cusack, fill out a cast of characters I could read about forever.

I wish I could continue to read about Georgina as she balances the demands of managing a bookstore and being a good girlfriend with stealing the the lifeforce of random nefarious men all while saving Seattle from villains of both the human and hellish variety. But, alas…it was not to be.

One of the things that makes a Richelle Mead series so satisfying is that Richelle always has a plan. She has an actual plot outline and story arc for all of her series. It dosen’t sound revolutionary, but I can name several popular authors (cough, cough, Charlaine Harris, cough, cough, Maggie Steifvater) who are not effectively employing this method. I can’t say I blame an author for writing a standalone novel, or short series with no grander plan than getting published. But then said novel or short series is published, and finds success and entreaties for a sequel – or sequels – arrive, and what’s a working author to do? Just come up with something. It usually turns out alright, people like me buy the books and generally like them OK.

But its frustrating as a reader to feel like not only are you not sure what happens next – neither is the author.

This dosen’t happen in a Richelle Mead series. Stories have an arc, things happen in one book that acquire significance in later books. Fancy concepts like foreshadowing are utilized. Characters die – or don’t die – with deliberation and meaning. Storylines are resolved – or aren’t – and reignite later. And sadly – when its over, its over.

And its over for Georgina Kincaid. I’m sad, but satisfied that Georgina’s story ends the way that Richelle always intended it to. But at the same time, Sydney Sage’s story is brand new. There are terrible and beautiful things that will surely befall her in the next five books. I will worry about Sydney and Jill and Adrian for months while I wait for the next book to come out, which I will then read in record time, and start worrying all over again.

Its the circle of life, darlings. And I love it.

Paranormalcy By Kiersten White
June 12, 2011

This was the first book I read on my brand new Kindle, so its kind of special.

I love my beautiful book machine, but I miss cover art. And this book has lovely cover art, so who knows if I would have loved it more or less if I read it the old fashioned way.

Paranormacy is the story of Evie, a 16 year-old  government employee who loves pop culture, is enamored by teen culture – specifically high school –  and hunts paranormal creatures. So, yes, its pretty much the story of my life. Except that I only act 16, but in reality I am actually a few years older. Yeah. Who needs reality anyway, right?

Also, you say Evie I think Out of This WorldWho else is with me?

Anyway, back to this Evie.

Hers is a glamorless life. Allegedly human, she is able to see past all supernatural glamor – and is thusly very valuable to the International Paranormal Containment Agency (IPCA), where she works as a paranormal tracker and trapper. An orphan, she is cared for by the agency and assigned to a woman named Raquel, who is kind of like a cross between her foster mother and boss. Given that Evie lives this very unconventional but sheltered life, never attending high school, never knowing anyone her age, she wants nothing more than to be a normal teenaged girl. Her only knowledge of teenaged life comes from watching TV shows – her favorite is a teen soap called Easton Heights. (In my mind this is a reference to this 90s show that somehow never caught on, despite featuring a rocking hit song sung by a pre-90210 Jamie Walters.)

Oh and she loves anything pink and sparkly. Ok. So, no one is perfect.

Evie is kind of exploited by her employer/ward for her special skills. She is kept in what amounts to a institutionally gilded cage – where she has an apartment of sorts and is home schooled and she is only allowed out into the world to capture paranormal creatures. A little bit brainwashed, she believes she is doing the right thing – protecting the world from vampires, werewolves and the like. But is she?

When she captures a boy her own age named Lend (lamest name ever), Evie begins to question who and what she is, and if she is really using her talents for good.

This book is completely devoid of profanity. Before you get too disappointed, the author devised a clever way to keep her heroine swearing without rousing the ire of any boring censors. Evie’s best friend is a foul-mouthed mermaid who can only speak via a computer translator which translates every dirty word as “bleep”, a pseudonym that Evie adopts uttering such immortal lines as “What the bleep am I?” and “Oh, bleep.”

It might say more about my unending affection for Richelle Mead’s Succubus series than this series itself when I say that this kind of reminded me of a YA version of Mead’s Succubus books. It has a bit of a derivative feel but, I enjoyed it all the same.

According to The Oracle known as Amazon.com, Paranormalcy will eventually become a trilogy.  The next installment – Supernaturally – is due in July 2011.

Can I just say, as much as I despise the terrible heat and sunshiney-ness of summer, this one is shaping up to be quite good for books – both YA and otherwise. In addition to the final book in Wolves of Mercy Falls series, this summer also brings the sequel to Once a Witch, the first book in the aforementioned Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy spin-off series Bloodlines as well as the final book in the super-adult Succubus series – Succubus Revealed.

Here’s to staying indoors all summer long!

Goodbye, Garnet Lacey
March 24, 2011

I recently finished reading Honeymoon of The Dead, the final book in Tate Hallaway’s series about reluctant Midwestern witch Garnet Lacey.

I really liked these books, and I am bit sad to see them end. At the same time, I’m glad that Ms. Hallaway quit when she did, instead of sacrificing good storytelling to the great god of sequel sales (nudge, nudge, Charlaine Harris).

Speaking of Charlaine Harris, I probably wouldn’t have discovered these books had I not read – and mostly loved – the Southern Vampire Mysteries series (AKA the books behind the solidly awesome HBO series True Blood).

After finishing what may be the last palatable book in the SVM series (Dead and Gone) I was very sad and longing for a paranormal mystery with a dash of romance to soothe me.

Fortune, it seemed, smiled upon me and I stumbled upon the first book in this series –  Tall, Dark and Dead. I immediately liked Garnet – with her spiky, dyed black hair and gothic fashion sensibilities. Under the spooky facade, Garnet is real witch, who is also a Wiccan (yes, Darlings, there is a difference) with a New Age-y leftist bent. Add a vampire boyfriend and some wacky magical shenanigans and I was totally hooked for the first 4 books.

These books also feature some of my favorite book covers in the history of cartoon-style book covers.  Its unknown if I would have loved the books quite as much as I did were it not for these whimsical portrayals of the witchy Miss Lacey and her feline friend. The dead-themed titles didn’t hurt either.

The mysteries and romantic entanglements may be a little formulaic and predicable, but they are still solidly fun and engaging. More than anything,  I liked the humorous and snarky way Garnet balances the demands of being possessed by the Goddess Lilith, falling in love with a sexy vampire and managing an occult bookstore – all while living in a cute vintage apartment in a quirky neighborhood of a small Midwestern city.

In essence, these books are your standard issue fluffy chick-lit focusing on a sexy independent single girl – with a darkly paranormal twist.

Dead Sexy and Romancing the Dead continued Garnet’s magical sleuthing and adventurous romance with daywalking vampire Sebastian Von Traum.

My amusement began to wear thin with the fourth installment, Dead if I Do. I was disappointed that Garnet moved out of her adorable apartment and started settling down into a serious life with her vampire lover, his zombie ex-wife and sullen half-vampire son. But, I had invested in Garnet and even married, she was sure to still be funny and prone to disasters of the supernatural variety. And she was.

But after finishing reading Dead if I Do, a few things happened that may have impacted how I felt about Honeymoon of the Dead. The first is that I read Richelle Mead’s series about another bookstore employee with supernatural powers. Richelle Mead’s Succubus series is funny and sexy and dark and tragic  – and pretty much all around one of the best paranormal series in all of creation.

If that wasn’t enough to overcome,  I also stared reading the personal blog of author Tate Hallaway.

Having learned more that I probably should about the author’s personal life,  Honeymoon of the Dead seems distractingly overburdened with thinly veiled personal references and shout-outs to her hometown of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. In fact, parts of the book reads like chamber of commerce propaganda for the Twin Cities. Maybe a lot of authors do this, and I don’t know enough about their personal lives to identify and be distracted by it.

However, I also read the personal blog of Richelle Mead, and know all kinds of trivia about her life, but I’m never distracted by self-referential commentary in her novels. So, who knows? In any event, its probably not fair to compare mere mortals to book-goddess Richelle Mead anyway.

Once I was able to get past the shout-outs and I did enjoy the book and was happy with how Garnet’s story ended. However, I cannot get past the horror that is the cover art. I don’t know where this cover came from, but I wish it would go back.

While the series may have gone on a little longer than it needed to, it was fun and entertaining throughout. I think I will miss Garnet, but I am reassured to hear that Tate Hallaway has expanded into YA fiction and has a series of vampire themed books set in – where else – Minneapolis/St. Paul. I can’t resist a YA book, as well you know, so you can expect to hear more about Almost to Die For soon!