Review: Vampire Academy: The Graphic Novel by Richelle Mead and Emma Vieceli

Review: Vampire Academy: The Graphic Novel by Richelle Mead and Emma VieceliVampire Academy: The Graphic Novel by Emma Vieceli, Richelle Mead
Series: Vampire Academy: The Graphic Novel #1
Published by Razorbill
Pages: 144
Genres: Graphic Novels, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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After two years on the run, best friends Rose and Lissa are caught and returned to St. Vladimir’s Academy, a private high school for vampires and half-bloods. It’s filled with intrigue, danger—and even romance.

Enter their dark, fascinating world through a new series of 144-page full-color graphic novels. The entire first Vampire Academy novel has been adapted for book one by Leigh Dragoon and overseen by Richelle Mead, while the beautiful art of acclaimed British illustrator Emma Vieceli brings the story to life.

Thoughts: This book was my first graphic novel – ever.*  So I can’t tell you how Vampire Academy: The Graphic Novel compares to other graphic novels out there, but I sure as hell can tell you that I enjoyed it.

I loved Vampire Academy (review) when I read it way back in 2010, and this graphic novel was the perfect way for me to revisit the book. It reminded me of how much I loved the characters and how completely enthralled I was in their world. The artwork has the right mixture of hard and soft – I never felt like I was reading some sort of anime, but neither did it feel like a child’s book. I hated the artwork in the Twilight graphic novel adaptation and this was (luckily) nothing like.

I was also surprised by how much of the book made it into the graphic novel. I’d thought that, rather like a movie adaptation, quite a lot of plot would have to be sacrificed in order to make this graphic novel. I was wrong! All of my favourite scenes are in it, as well as a few I’d forgotten about.

Since reading the first book in the Vampire Academy series, I struggled to finish the series. Not because the later books are bad, but because I was spoiled and it made the journey to the conclusion non-exquisite torture! But this graphic novel was a perfect way for me to wet my toes in the Vampire Academy world without worrying about what comes next.

Bottom line? A must-have for fans of the series. I am definitely going to be getting the adaptation of Frostbite and hope the publishers make the entire series into graphic novels!

* OK, I read Mercy Thompson: Homecoming a few years ago, but it was so short and I doubt it would count.

Review: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Review: Scarlet by Marissa MeyerScarlet by Marissa Meyer
Series: Lunar Chronicles #2
Published by Feiwel & Friends, Puffin on February 7th 2013
Pages: 452
Genres: Fairytale Re-tellings, Science Fiction YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Also in this series: Cinder, Cress

The fates of Cinder and Scarlet collide as a Lunar threat spreads across the Earth...

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her.

[Note: I've edited this summary, as the official version has spoilers for the end of the book! #Fail]

Thoughts: It is an absolute TRAGEDY that I am only now writing this review. Tragedy, I say, because Scarlet is everything I’ve ever wanted in a YA novel and you’ve all had months not knowing that. Fortunately, you can go out now and get it. Right now. Go on. I can wait.

Got it? Good. Now we can talk.

You see, I normally have serious issues with the Red Riding Hood retellings. Despite liking Cinder, I had been apprehensive about how the story would play out in Scarlet. But, without spoiling the novel for you, let me just say this: Meyer’s portrayal of Wolf and his pack makes me want to send her gold stars. No really, actual gold stars. If anyone has her address, I’ll send them now. It was genius.

The strength of this book is in its characters: Scarlet‘s heroine is independent but extremely loyal to her family. She’s tough and worldly, but not so hardened by life as to stop loving. She reminds me of Mercy Thompson from Patricia Briggs’ novels – which is quite the compliment, I assure you. As for the Wolf in the tale: he has the right mix of violent-and-distrust-worthy and worthy-of-redemption. So many authors strive to write bad boys and just end up pissing me off. Marissa Meyer, I am happy to report, is not one of those authors. Wolf is a victim in this tale; albeit a victim that can rip your throat out.

Scarlet follows directly on from Cinder and, because of that, it follows more than one POV. This can at times mean serious confusion and reader fatigue… but not in this case. The action was easy to follow and the transitions between narrator only heightened the tension. The only critique I have is that, well, I don’t particularly like Cinder as a character and so wasn’t too interested in what she had to say. Her chapters unfortunately dragged my rating of this book from 5 to 4.5 stars.

Besides my dislike of Cinder’s character, one of my biggest peeves from Cinder was the predictability of the plot – something I am happy to report Scarlet has none of. While I could certainly tell that none of the characters were quite who they said they were, I didn’t know what to expect. Scarlet‘s plot twists and turns had all the oomph I love. There were leaps from moving trains, fights in empty theatres and kidnappings galore – but, best of all, I didn’t see any of them coming.

My goodreads updates for your amusement:

My Goodreads Progress for Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Bottom line: Scarlet is a brilliant, brilliant book. Even if you weren’t impressed by Cinder, you’ll love it.

 

Review: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Review: Out of the Easy by Ruta SepetysOut of The Easy by Ruta Sepetys
Published by Philomel Books, Puffin
Pages: 352
Genres: Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer.

She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street. Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.

With characters as captivating as those in her internationally bestselling novel Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys skillfully creates a rich story of secrets, lies, and the haunting reminder that decisions can shape our destiny.

Thoughts: I really thought I would love Out of the Easy. I thought it would be an eerie, atmospheric novel, filled with intrigue and southern charm. Let me tell you now: it was none of those things.

Everyone raved about Between Shades of Gray, Ruta’s first book, but it never appealed to me. Out of the Easy sounded like it would have everything I’d want in it – and that was one of its problems. All of the content for a great book was there – New Orleans, a girl fighting the system, murder and intrigue, even a used bookstore – but there was no life in any of them.

Let’s deal with the main source of that lack-of-life: our leading lady, Josie. Ignoring all the upstairs-downstairs crap that was supposed to make this book “insightful”, Out of the Easy is based on two basic premises:

  1. Josie is brilliant. She’s a genius who deserves All. Good. Things.
  2. Life is so hard for poor Josie. Woe is Josie.

Seems simple, doesn’t it? If only.

Let’s start with that first point. For someone who is supposed to be so smart, she makes many, many stupid decisions. She trusts the wrong people, lies to the wrong people, and rolls over passively when a simple phone call could get her out of a bad situation.

Namely, it’s Josie’s passivity when dealing with her mother that was one of my biggest problems. This is a woman who – at every available opportunity – treats her horrendously. She beats Josie, she lies to Josie, she steals from Josie, she treats Josie like she is beneath her contempt. And it’s not as if Josie even excuses those things… she just doesn’t do anything about it. It’s as if the plot required Josie to do things “because that’s her mother”, and no thought was given to thinking about how Josie should react to her mother’s actions. Not to mention that, though she hates the stigma of being a prostitute’s daughter, she doesn’t seem to connect that stigma with her mother. I don’t think that’s how a

Maybe she has book smarts, because she sure wasn’t gifted any emotional intelligence.

Then there’s the “Woe is Josie” premise. Huh?? So many people in this book treat Josie like an absolute star, like she is the best thing since sliced bread and could well be the second coming. Which is great and everything, but it makes the “Woe is Josie” core of the story virtually impossible to buy into. Yes, her life isn’t what she wants, but whose isn’t? In all honesty, the life of a madam in New Orleans actually didn’t look to bad from where I was, so why was it so terrible for Josie? Other than her mother, Out of the Easy‘s prostitutes and chauffeurs all seemed rather content with their lot in life. Why wasn’t Josie? I have no idea.

Actually, “talking” it out now, I can see what really irked me about this book: Out of the Easy is a book about getting out of New Orleans, but it should have been a book about learning to love the “New Orleans” you’re dealt.

As if that weren’t enough, all the intrigue promised by the summary was not at all delivered. The mystery took a back seat to Josie’s angst and its resolution was met with a shrug. And as for New Orleans? The book could have been set in Harlem for all the effect the city had. Not cool. Not cool.

Bottom line? If you aren’t a reader who spends far too much time nitpicking characters, you’ll probably enjoy Out of the Easy a hell of a lot more than I did.

Review: Last Chance by Sarah Dessen

Review: Last Chance by Sarah DessenLast Chance by Sarah Dessen
Published by Hodder Children's Books, Speak
Pages: 246
Genres: Contemporary YA, Young Adult
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Colie expects the worst when she's sent to spend the summer with her eccentric aunt Mira while her mother, queen of the television infomercial, tours Europe. Always an outcast-first for being fat and then for being "easy" - Colie has no friends at home and doesn't expect to find any in Colby, North Carolina. But then she lands a job at the Last Chance Café and meets fellow waitresses Morgan and Isabel, best friends with a loving yet volatile relationship. Wacky yet wise, Morgan and Isabel help Colie see herself in a new way and realize the potential that has been there all along.

Published as Keeping the Moon in the US.

Thoughts: Sarah Dessen is one of those authors I’ve heard a lot of rave things about; she’s considered one of the very best Contemporary YA writers. And though I was not over-the-moon for Last Chance, I was certainly hooked on its author.

Last Chance is a novel about overcoming one of the toughest things in life: the terrible perception you have of yourself. The main character, Colie, has had a life of bad experiences – and she’s learnt to expect more of them to come. But while I really loved what Dessen did with Colie over the course of the novel, I can’t say I ever came to love her. She was fine, but I never really “got” who she was. Her main role was as the “doormat”, but taking that away seemed to leave a blank slate.

Which, now that I think of it, might have been what Dessen was going for. I guess Colie was still working out who she was – as a “work in progress”, I guess a blank slate would be just what she wanted. Hmm…

Anyhow, the real standouts of Last Chance are Colie’s supporting cast of characters. There’s Isabel, the bitchy, so-truthful-it-hurts, supermodel-look-a-like waitress who starts off as the main antagonist but slowly becomes the greatest friend you can have (and my favourite character in the novel, to boot). Morgan, the soft-hearted waitress with hearts in her eyes and a quick temper. Mira, the eccentric artist-turned-card-writer who sees a good side to everything – even the most broken of appliances. And Norman, the boy who is written off as an “artist hippie type” but turns out to be the most observant of the lot.

Gorgeous, gorgeous characters. I am going to miss them. And are they worth picking up the book for? In a word: yes.

Bottom line: Overall, a great introduction to Dessen’s writing. While I wish the main character had had a bit more character, her friends more than made up for her.

Review: River Marked by Patricia Briggs

Review: River Marked by Patricia BriggsRiver Marked by Patricia Briggs
Series: Mercy Thompson #6
Published by Ace/Roc, Orbit
Pages: 326
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Moon Called, Blood Bound

Being a different breed of shapeshifter - a walker - Mercy Thompson can see ghosts, but the spirit of her long-gone father has never visited her. Until now, on her honeymoon with the Alpha werewolf Adam. An evil is stirring in the depths of the Columbia River-and innocent people are dying. As other walkers make their presence known to Mercy, she must reconnect with her heritage to exorcise the world of the legend known as the river devil...

Thoughts: This book has confirmed what I long thought to be true: Patricia Briggs is incapable of writing books I don’t like.

I was in a real reading slump when I picked up River Marked. Almost every book I picked up left me with a desire to send letter bombs in the mail – and there seemed to be no cure in sight. I thought: “If Briggs can’t get me out of this funk, no one can.” And sure enough, she did.

River Marked was absolutely stellar. It was really different to the previous Mercy books, as Mercy and Adam spent 90% of the time away from home with strangers. I adored this for two reasons: 1) it was a chance for us to see how Mercy and Adam’s relationship would work outside of their comfort zone. 2) it was a completely natural, realistic thing for a couple to do. Too often authors will stick to a particular group of characters or a certain location, because that’s what people want to read. Not Briggs. She’ll take two of your favourite characters, toss them somewhere brand new, and make you love her for it.

That said, though most of the book was spent on the road, Briggs did sneak in a few fan favourites: Bran, Stefan and Jesse all put in some rather solid appearances. Thank God, as I really needed to check in on them after Silver Borne.

So, along with the fantastic exploration of Mercy and Adam’s relationship, River Marked also introduced a bunch of Native American mythology… which I loved. I read stories about Coyote and Raven when I was a girl, so seeing their stories incorporated into River Marked was a dream. Without giving away too many details… I also really liked how Briggs dealt with Mercy’s family history. Maybe other readers will find it a bit iffy, but I thought she handled it all very well.

You can also see the beginnings of a bunch of new plot lines in River Marked; I am positively twitching with impatience with the need to find out what Briggs has planned! I was starting to worry that she was wrapping up the Mercy series, but I can picture at least 5 more books worth of content she can cover after this.

Bottom line? A stellar – albeit, very different – installment in the Mercy series. If you are looking for a UF series that can hold up six books in, look no further.

Cover Note: I’ve used the US cover for this post as I absolutely loathe the new UK covers. The covers are actually what kept me from reading this book for so long – I just couldn’t stand the idea of buying the UK version! Only reason I bought it in the end was because I spotted it at Oxfam. Will need to get the US cover on bookdepository one of these days…

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