Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Book Review: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Pages: 332

Published by Razorbill, 2007

Goodreads Synopsis:

St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger…

Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi—the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires—make Lissa one of them forever

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My Review:

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I’m not certain where to begin on this review. Vampire Academy was a quick, fun read, but nothing great. I doubt I’ll carry on with the series unless the later novels are adapted to screenplay as well.

First, this book started out in a whirlwind of action and ambiguity. I mean, I love jumping right into a story, but there was absolutely no character development or speculation about plot development prior to the start of the novel. You’re just thrown in trying to figure out why everything is happening.

Being thrust into a developing story I can handle, but things only went downhill from there.

The foreshadowing of this novel was so painfully obvious. I only read to the end because I was hoping that I was wrong in my prediction of the ‘big reveal’… nope. I was right. It was as boring as I expected. This novel might read like a suspenseful mystery, but Mead puts the answers right in front of her readers the entire time.  And also, besides having very little character and plot development, this story relies much too heavily on the always ill-fated love triangles. I know these are popular in YA fiction, but Mead’s were just too unoriginal. It didn’t help her book stand out any. And beyond even that, Mead played another classic YA device – humor. Except the humor was weak and as a reader I felt that I was expected to rely on Rose’s lame comebacks for her character development. It only made me even more annoyed with her.

So let’s talk about Rose and Lissa, our main characters. They’ve run away from school for some mystery reason and are dragged back. You’d think two years living as self-sufficient adults would have done something for their teenage vanity and jealousy. Nope again! These girls, Rose especially, are obsessed with shopping, boys, and gossip. Fine, whatever. The real kicker though? Rose is oh-so-good-looking and she knows it. I don’t think multiple descriptions of how great she looks in a bra really counts as character development. Her vanity not only disrupts any redeeming qualities she may have offered as a female protagonist, but it completely shrouds the only good qualities she had – her ability to kick ass and care about her friend. Turns out, Rose is weaker than she thinks. She even lets her own jealousy nearly ruin the only good thing Lissa had going. So much for being a guardian.

I can’t even talk about Lissa, she was such a bland character. She’s too fragile to do anything on her own and she’s a freaking vampire! I know it’s fun to play around with mythological origins, but Lissa was the worst vampire in history. All of the weaknesses, none of the strengths

Don’t worry, this book wasn’t all bad. Let’s end this on a positive note. I of course liked Rose as a female heroin. She wasn’t as fragile as Miss Bella Swan (Twilight), but still she’s no Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games). Regardless, Rose had a mission – to protect Lissa – and she worked her tush off to be strong enough to do so, taking many beatings in the meantime. Now that’s some devoted friendship. Also, as much as sex was a part of this book, Rose was a virgin throughout the book. Good work, Mead. Rose might have been reckless, but this proves that she at least had some self-control. A redeeming quality indeed. 

Along with some redeeming qualities in our protagonist, the writing was actually quite good. It is an easy read with enough description and action to let readers focus on the story and not the writing. AND, I was appreciative that there were no werewolves involved. I never understood the tie between vampires and werewolves.

So there it is. If you need a quick, easy read this is a good one. I know this book got a lot of good reviews so it’s probably one you’d want to check out for yourself. It just wasn’t for me. Have at it! You really can’t go wrong with reading.

I give Vampire Academy two out of five stars.

2 Stars

Guest Post: Vincent Paul on Self-Publishing

Please welcome Vince! He’s a newly published author and he did it all on his own. After reading his book Miracles in Times Square, I wanted to know HOW he managed to write this inspiring story and stick to his goal of seeing it published. Here’s some advice from author Vincent Paul. Please feel free to email questions or leave a comment.

SELF-PUBLISHING COULD BE FOR YOU

ImageIf you’re serious about writing a book, you might want to consider self-publishing … seriously. Self-publishing can be an affordable, efficient and timely way to get your book into the market. It isn’t easy though, and I won’t make it seem as lucrative as the companies who print your book want you to believe, you’re going to have to do your own marketing if you want to sell your books, and that’s not easy at all. It will take up a lot of your time, and you will have to make many sacrifices if you want to cut costs, but anybody can self-publish and it can feel pretty good when you finally see your book in print.

When I was in the final stages of writing my book, I considered all of the options of publishing, and the obvious answer was that I needed to write a “query letter” and send it out to as many publishers that I can. That’s what all the “old” writing books tell you to do. But, then I started researching and found out that many publishers don’t even read your letters. They joke that they have “slush piles” in their offices for all of the submissions they receive.

Then I looked into self-publishing, and found out that books can be printed on-demand, so you don’t need to have big print runs that can cost a lot of money, for books you might not ever sell. In addition, you can have an ebook so that your work can be available instantly to readers, and there are companies online they can take your manuscript, and format it into a physical book in a matter of months. The costs can be kept down if you edit your manuscript yourself, and have a basic cover (for me the entire book cost around $800.) Doing everything by yourself can be tricky though, I personally had to go through about five revisions before the book was complete, but if you have a few people who you can count on, you should be able to get it done.

Covers are a big stepping stone in self-publishing. Bold, splashy covers look really nice and I wanted to have one too, but it can cost a lot of money if you hire an artist to design it for you. However, most self-publishers will allow you to upload an image. That is an alternative I wished I would have taken advantage of. When you’re finished writing your book, decide what photo or artwork should go with the cover and go to that location and take the picture, or have yourself or someone you know draw a picture to go with the title to make your cover stand out.

After all of your hard work is done, the bills are paid, and you see your book in print, it can be a very rewarding experience, and it’s a good feeling to know that you’re an author, and there will always be a book with your name on it, sitting on a shelf somewhere, or better yet … being read.

All this being said, I think self-publishing is a good way to go when you are starting out writing, maybe for your first book in order to to gain exposure. After your book is complete, contact the media, enter book contests and use the social media, and let people know who you are. Then, with hope and a lot of hard work, you can attract publishers for your next novel … and maybe launch a career.

My book “Miracles in Times Square,” by Vincent Paul, is about a man who wins the lottery and tries to change the world, and is available now on Amazon, and the Kindle version is part of the Lending Library.

Please see miraclesintimessquare.com for more information.

Book Review: Everwild by Neal Shusterman

Everwild [Skinjacker Series #2] by Neal Shusterman

448 pages

published by Simon & Schuster, 2010

Goodreads Synopsis:

“Everlost, the limbo land of dead children, is at war. Nick the “Chocolate Ogre” wants to help the children of Everlost reach the light at the end of the tunnel. Mary Hightower, self-proclaimed queen of lost children and dangerous fanatic, is determined to keep Everlost’s children trapped within its limbo for all eternity. Traveling in the memory of the Hindenburg, Mary is spreading her propaganda and attracting Afterlights to her cause at a frightening speed.

Meanwhile, Allie the Outcast travels home to seek out her parents, along with Mikey, who was once the terrifying monster the McGill. Allie is tempted by the seductive thrill of skinjacking the living, until she discovers the shocking truth about skinjackers.”

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My Review:

The second installment of Shusterman’s series is a thrill. His regular frights become more frightening, more disturbing, more chilling. The agonizingly slow, yet strange and unpredictable plights of Nick to the deeply (very deeply) disturbing practices of Mary the Sky Witch make this book a welcome challenge to the reader. I’m 22 years old and this book disturbed me in ways I didn’t expect. Shusterman doesn’t adhere to the idea of innocence, he exposes something that might make the reader squirm, but its a thought that’s certain to stick with your memory. If you’re up to the challenge – read this book.

The characters become more rounded and complicated in this book, even some of the secondary characters such as Speedo have inner conflicts in Shusterman’s sequel. The character development is quite impressive. However, I was less impressed with some of Shusterman’s new characters. Squirrel and Moose, other skinjackers, seem to fit the static henchman stereotype and were entirely uninteresting. And as for Milos, he’s a boy with too many problems; during my reading I got the impression Shusterman changed his mind on Milos’s character and shifted his personality just slightly too much for me to enjoy him as a character. Zinnia was an enjoyable character, but her naivety after all her years in Everlost were a bit of a let down to her character. While I enjoyed the additional characters to Everwild, they seemed poorly developed in comparison to Mary, Nick, Allie, and Mikey. Speaking of Mikey, the emotional roller-coaster in just this little boy made me topsy turvey. I do think it was done artistically . Mikey reminded me that Everlost is a place of children, and children can be incredibly emotional and upredictable. I’m excited to see what happens to Mikey in the last installment of the Skinjacker series, Everfound.

Also, as much as I enjoyed this novel, there is one major plot hole in Shusterman’s story. Shusterman seems too eager to find a solution to why only some children can skinjack. Allie’s revelation is unrealistic and uncharacteristic of Shusterman’s otherwise tight plot. 

The plot of the novel was relatively slow paced. A lot of action takes place between the sequences of Mary and Nick’s plotting, but with as many story lines woven throughout the story, the final confrontation scene was a bit of a letdown. Shusterman continues to be incredibly creative in his plot, his action scenes are always a delight to read. However, the end left more loose ends than completed ones. I’m looking forward to the last novel of the series. I believe Everfound will be the profound ending to a good series or a letdown of Shusterman’s genius creativity.

I give Everwild a three out of five stars.

3 Stars