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.

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Hello, what’s this? Another blog?
April 18, 2010

Apparently, while I was reading Twilight, the entire planet was starting a Sweet Valley High blog. All the SVH blogs are funny and awesome and been around since long before I knew who Edward Cullen is. (So, 2008 or so for the historians out there). So, I was late to Twilight and now I’m late to the SVH resurgence. NOW Diablo Cody is making SVH into a movie, and therefore its all played out. Its basically Twilight already. *Sigh*

Everyone has recapped every fun SVH book. Ditto The Babysitters Club (which I didn’t read, but would have if I wasn’t already into heavy metal and Marlboro Reds by then).

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have things to say about the Wakefield twins, and the Girls of Canby Hall. And I will, don’t you worry about that.

But I’m different than the YA Nostalgia Snarkers you already know. For one, I am not stuck in the past. I don’t just lurk in the DirtyOldBooks section of Goodwill searching for YA goodness. Oh no, I march purposefully into the BrandShinyNewBooks Barnes and Noble and head straight for the YA section. I cleverly feign disinterest as I peruse such contemporary classics as The House of Night Series and LA Candy by Lauren Conrad. As a rule, I do not make eye contact with the teenagers I encounter there.

OK, one time I couldn’t contain myself and gushed about how much I LOVED Richelle Mead’s Blood Promise to a sullen-faced teenager skimming through a copy of it. I think I thought that having a superhip lady in her 30s endorsing the Vampire Boarding School-themed novel she was examining would ensure that she would totes want to purchase it…Sorry, Richelle I think I owe you a reader. My bad.

For the most part, I bravely pretend like I’m buying a gift when I haul my books to the counter. Its too bad I don’t have kids I could use as an excuse for lurking in the YA section. Its kind of like the ironic mirror image of teen-aged me loitering outside a liquor store looking for some old lady in her 30s I could convince to buy me beer. Except I’m the old lady and its books I want those whippersnappers to hook me up with.

Its a little sad. But awesome at the same time.

Also, I genuinely love some of these books. Not SVH or the House of Night, obviously, but my copy of Blood Promise is stained with my actual tears. I’m planning my summer vacation from work around the release of the last Hunger Games novel, Mockingjay.

So, you see its not just nostalgia and snark. Its not just SVH. Its modern. Its now. Its awful. Get ready.