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In Defense of the Written Word

I mentioned in my review of The Vampire Diaries that I had already gotten the next volume out of of the library, and was going to read it before the television show premiered, if for no other reason than to properly hate and critique it. This plan changed after I actually saw some of the trailers and sneak peeks of the show.

The long preview.

Now, I don’t expect book-to-screen adaptions to be perfect, I’m not naive. But this is such an awful bastardization of the literature it’s based off of, I’m surprised LJ Smith herself hasn’t stormed the offices of CW with a machete. I’m not about to explain everything that is wrong with this, but rest assured, it makes the adaption of the third Harry Potter book look like a work of exquisite art. (Although, I’m more than happy to admit I love seeing Ian Somerhalder back on television. Man I love him.)

The Vampire Diaries is far from my favorite book (though of all the things I have read for the purposes of this blog, it’s not that bad). I am not a fan of these books as much as I am a fan of all books, which is why I’ll never find it in my heart to even watch these episodes online.


The Vampire Diaries Volume 1: The Awakening and The Struggle

by L.J. Smith

Plot Synopsis: Elena is the social queen at school, and gets whiny and offended when the new hot boy (Stefan) at school doesn’t pay attention to her. They eventually start dating, and she finds out he’s a vampire, with an evil brother (Damon) who wants to kill him. Fights and deaths ensue!







Vampire Lore: 2
Smith took some major liberties here, which I suppose you can get away with when you publish a book about vampires before they sparkled. For starters, a vampire drinking someone’s blood doesn’t turn them into a vampire; the victim then has to drink the vampire’s blood. Okay, I can buy that. What I CAN’T buy is that after a while the effects of vampirism can wear off, and that someone is only transformed fully into a vampire if they die. Damon can transform into a crow, and Stefan can transfer into a falcon…I’ll just leave you with the thought of vampires turning into what could be feathered pets.

Love/Sex/Romance: 2
Same stuff you see everywhere…vampire dude, human girl, want to get together but he feels obligated to not go near her to save her. Blah blah blah.

Fights: 4
I have to say, this was pretty cool. There was lots of human-human fights, vampire-vampire fights, human-vampire fights, and people dying. This should always be part of vampire novels.

Entertainment Value: 3
I have to admit, once I got past the first 20-30 pages, this wasn’t as much as a struggle as I had predicted it to be. And I give Smith credit for the way she ended each book, because the lack of resolution and the promise that it would come not-so-far into the following book kept me fairly interested.

Characters: 1
I hated Elena from page four; she was shallow and just…lame. Stefan was marginally better, but still pretty whiny. Elena’s friend Bonnie’s psychic powers made her MORE ridiculous and annoying. Elena’s friend/ex-boyfriend Matt is a sucker with no backbone. Damon was the only character that didn’t make me want to jump into the book and become homicidal.

Writing: 3
I wasn’t a fan of how, in The Awakening, the story was told in third person from Elena’s point-of-view, then Stefan’s, then Elena’s, then Stefan’s, etc. ESPECIALLY since we knew NOTHING about Stefan most of The Awakening.

Overall, this is worth a read if you plan on checking out the upcoming series on CW that’s based off of it. Because from what I’ve been reading about it, and series of books that is already questionable is being torn apart for this show. It promises to be pretty awful.


Got Fangs?

by Katie Maxwell

Plot Synopsis: Francesca is traveling Europe for the summer with her mom as part of GothFaire, a traveling show with magicians, psychics, and witches (like her mother). She just wants to be normal, which has been difficult since she inherited her mom’s weirdness and can read people’s minds by touching them. Anyway, her BFF (Imogen)’s brother, Benedikt, visits, and with her power she finds out he is a vampire. Her plan to stay away from him is thwarted when he tells her that he is her Beloved; the only person who can redeem his soul. (Also, he’s “open-your-mouth-and-let-the-drool-flow-out cute.”) Later, she accidently discovers that someone at the fair wants him dead, and she has to use her powers to find out who is stealing from the fair’s safe. Mystery ensues.





Vampire Lore: 4
I was actually pretty impressed. He gets burned by sunlight, drinks blood from humans, and dies if he gets staked in the heart. Maxwell makes a point to mention that Benedikt wears a cross around his neck, which was bizarre and random and I assume will come in later. However, he does get the crap beat out of him by a demon, and is injured like a regular person, and I wish he would have been more badass.

Love/Sex/Romance: 3
Well, there was no sex at all, for starters, so that’s out. But the whole book is based around the fact that Benedikt’s Movarian (means “vampire” in this book, not the Pennsylvania college) soul needs to be redeemed by being united with his Beloved, which, as luck would have it, is his sister’s best friend. The romantic interactions are FINALLY appropriate; she is wary of him and doesn’t automatically fall head over heels for him.

Fights: 1.5
This doesn’t get a 1 because it’s slightly better than this gem. You don’t actually see a fight, but you see what kind of shape he’s in afterwards, and that shape is pretty brutalized.

Entertainment Value: 3
I was entertained enough until about 30 pages from the end, where I guessed the ending. This annoyed me, mostly because I can never predict endings, which means it must have been pretty obvious. But I plugged through the rest, and I had guessed wrong. So for that, Katie Maxwell, a 3 for you.

Characters: 2
There were a lot of characters, but none of them were really given much depth, aside from Benedikt and Fran. Even the guy who turns out to be the bad guy never had much information revealed about him, except that he was skeevy and thought he was actually Elvis. I would care about if I didn’t think most of them needed to be developed a bit more, because I was sort of confused by their actions in the story because they just weren’t explained all that well. Also, cliche vampire dude with cliche outcast human girl. Of course.

Writing: 4
I’ll be honest, I actually hated the writing style. A lot. But I gave it a 4…what’s up with that? It was strangely written, but was, again, appropriate. It’s a first person point of view from Fran, so you’re in the mind of a sixteen-year-old girl. So all the dumb stuff that is written, is written because that’s how the mind of a sixteen-year-old works. Basically, all the awkward word and phrases to describe things are supposed to be there.

Overall…this actually wasn’t too bad. I got (and get) the impression that Katie Maxwell doesn’t take herself too seriously. Melissa de la Cruz tries to write meaningful novels with depth, Maxwell knows it’s pretty much fluff and has fun with it. Reading this book was an enjoyable two-day-long experience.


Blue Bloods

Blue Bloods
(Book 1 in the Blue Bloods Series)

by Melissa de la Cruz

Plot Synopsis: This time around, vampires are actually New York City socialites, that keep dying and being reincarnated. They should be indestructible, but something is killing them and draining them of all their blood…yes, you guessed right, they have BLUE BLOOD.










Vampire Lore: 3
Most classic lore is ignored. I did like that in this world, their fangs are in the back. It actually makes more sense to me. Also, these vampires were followers of Lucifer that were cast from Heaven, and have been going through a death-and-rebirth cycle for thousands of years, hoping to be welcomed into Heaven again one day. They keep all their memories through their past lives and everything.

Love/Sex/Romance: 1
There was one sort-of-relationship. One time, they almost had sex. Only one was a vampire. FAIL.

Fights: 2
This does not get a 1, because in one instance when the protagonist is getting attacked, her dog saves her. I like dogs.

Entertainment Value: 3
This was quite possibly one of the slowest moving books I’ve ever read. The main plot (or what was to be the main plot) wasn’t revealed until more than halfway through the book; even the word “vampire” was missing until ten pages short of the halfway page. If not for the impending delight of getting to rip it apart later, I would have dropped this so quickly. But for all I know, the author could have done this on purpose, because the book ends right when things ACTUALLY start to happen. It would make readers curious enough to check out the rest of the books in the series.

Characters: 3
The main character’s name is Schuyler Van Alen. It should be noted “Schuyler” is pronounced as SKYLAR. Not SHOOEELER, or SHULER, or anything else I thought until another character referred to her as “Sky.” Her dad is dead and her mom is a coma, so she lives in a run-down mansion with her grandmother…even though they somehow aren’t rich anymore, or something. She is the classic teen vampire novel female protagonist…wears clothes that look awful, has two friends, but is still somehow GORGEOUS. Then there is her best friend, Ollie, who she finds out is basically her guardian. Dylan, their new friend, who you find out by the end of the book is also a vampire but didn’t tell anyone. Mimi (vampire), an unbearable popular girl that made me want to set things on fire. Mimi’s twin brother, Jack (vampire), who thinks he’s totally in love with Schuyler in his past lives, until he realizes he seeing memories of her mother (and so basically says, NVRMIND KTHX; what a douche). Bliss (vampire), the new girl in school who is torn between being in the popular crowd or dating outcast Dylan…man, teenage years involved so many hard decisions.

Writing: 0.5
With a writing style rivaling that of Tara Gilesbie, how can you go wrong? There were so many unnecessary descriptions of clothes, purses, and shoes, I thought it was a joke. There were brand names I’d never even heard of (not that that’s saying much, as the majority of my own clothes shopping is done at Kohl’s and Target), not to mention sentences like, “He was so skinny and sexy.”

This is the cream of the crop of poorly written teen vampire books. I’m sort of ashamed that this entertained me, but I think I’ll be content looking up the spoilers on Wikipedia rather than read the rest of this series. But, once again, if you are faithful to this genre (for some ungodly reason), you’ll probably enjoy this.


In The Meantime, I’ll Tell You About A Man Named Dan Brown.

School has been keeping me busy lately, and I have not even started my next book. (I won’t tell you what it is though; suspense!) But I have something else I want to rant about within the literary world. Yesterday, one of the biggest publications since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was announced. Dan Brown, after about six years or literary seclusion, will have his new book released by Doubleday.

Now, I’ve been in publishing for many years, and consider myself a bit of a snob about the quality of novels. Enough to know that Dan Brown isn’t a very good author at all, but not enough to rant about it to everyone I encounter. However, I have friends who are English majors, communications majors, and library science graduates that DO care enough to go into long winded rants about his crappiness.

True, every cliffhanger is completely obvious. Yes, Robert Langdon is too cocky for his own good. Of course you knew that guy was going to be the villain; Brown sucks too much to try to disguise it any better. Yup, that thing that happened that one time also happened in every other suspense book in the fiction section.

But he’s not all bad. I’m impressed that he got an entire society to think and argue about their beliefs. He brought bits of history into light that no one knew about. (Not that much of the book was true, as it is a FICTION book. (Something people seem to forget.) But I can guarantee that about half of the people who read that had never heard of the Knights Templar.)

But in 2009, the world needs Dan Brown. Print media is a dying industry. Small publishers are going bankrupt. Big publishers are cutting ties with their imprints. Borders hasn’t had shares over a dollar for months. All book retailers and distributors have seen huge declines, and everyone is scared stiff. His novels are complete rubbish, and my brain leaked out my ears when I read The Da Vinci Code. But no one can deny his presence and influence.

I really hate to admit it, but Dan Brown just might save the book industry.


Honorable Mention: Generation Dead

by Daniel Waters

Plot Synopsis: American teenagers are dying. But they aren’t staying dead. Some random high school somewhere in New England has become known for its excellent reputation toward accommodating “differently biotic” kids. There’s the two Hot Topic goths, the football star who’s in love with one of them, a bunch of dead kids, and the rest of the world that hates them. Drama!!!!

There are two reasons this book won’t get rated like I would normally do. First of all, it’s not about vampires. Secondly, once I got past the cliched characters that I wanted to strangle…this was actually a pretty good book, and I can’t mock it properly.

I mean, I knew I’d hate most of the characters when I read, within the first few pages, that Phoebe, the primary protagonist, had long black hair, wore all black clothes and purple lipstick, and listened to lame goth bands…and Disturbed, one of the worst bands EVER. Her best friend, Margi, was marginally more tolerable, mostly because I liked her big boobs. Then of course, the huge football player, Adam, who’s known Phoebe since grade school and is secretly in love with her, and just learned to control his physical power. This causes problems with his ex-best friend, Pete, who is a big idiot.

I liked the dead kids, because they were something new. I suppose this it what it would have been like if I had read the first teen vampire books when it came out, but the differently biotic (zombie is impolite!) kids were sort of fascinating. I never would have thought what it would have been like to be undead, or live among them.

But what I enjoyed about this book was what was left after all the characters are extracted. It’s a book about prejudice. The people subject to that prejudice are on a quest to show the world they aren’t all that different. The few that befriend the different are outcast. There are sacrifices and casualties. And really, everyone else just makes fun because they’re scared.

It’s like real life, but with more zombies.

The sequel is set to come out next month. While it isn’t particularly high on my priority list, I’ll definitely make it a point to read it.


Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side

by Beth Fantaskey

Plot Synopsis: Nerdy 17-year-old high school senior Jessica Packwood pretty much hates all things ridiculous. She hides the fact that her biological parents (she is adopted) died because they were studying vampires. (It should be noted that her adoptive parents are crazy hippies, which I actually quite enjoyed.) One day, a Romanian dude (Lucius Vladescu) shows up, and tells her she is in fact a vampire princess, he is a vampire prince, and that after her 18th birthday they are to be wed in order to prevent a vampire war in their native country. Oh noes!


Vampire Lore: 3
The vampires were from Romania, which you rarely see these days, so I liked that. He drank blood, so that tradition stayed. However, I found it odd that in this world, vampire females don’t get their fangs until bitten by a male vampire. And that fangs pretty much act as erections for dudes. (Seriously. Whenever they get aroused, their fangs come out to play.) Also, Fantaskey completely throws the fact that vampires can’t be in the sunlight right out the window, by having Lucius say that it’s just a myth. Though I guess throwing out attributes of vampires cemented in the 19th century is totally acceptable if you have a master’s degree in journalism.

Love/Sex/Romance: 3
This book had a lot of almost-sex and making out, but no intercourse. I did like that in this world, vampire sex isn’t a big deal, and that blood sharing is more intimate. Less emphasis on sex in teen novels is good by me.

Fights: 1
Lucius’s vampire uncle beats him. Human style. With fists. I read about fist fights in any book.

Entertainment Value: 2
The momentum of the story was doing well, but I became really uninterested after Jessica came to terms with the fact that she was, in fact, a vampire. I finished it on the night I started it only because my boyfriend was playing Fallout 3 and I was bored.

Characters: 3
Nothing special; pretty cliche.

Writing: 2
It wasn’t anything I didn’t expect from a teen vampire romance, until the last few chapters. About 50 or so pages from the end, her best friend thinks she’s weird and she humiliates her sort-of boyfriend, so they don’t talk to her anymore. She doesn’t participate in graduation, but after hearing some news about Lucius (he’s back in Romania by this point) she gets on a plane with her vampire uncle within hours and goes off to her kingdom. Some drama happens, she gets bitten…and that’s it. What happened to the friends, they never reconciled? And her parents are not mentioned ONCE in that entire block of time. Way to give your loved ones a heart attack.

Overall, if you actually enjoy teen vampire novels, you’ll probably enjoy this. If you have three or four hours with nothing to do and you DON’T enjoy teen vampire novels, go play Fallout 3. Dogmeat is waiting for you!