Man, oh man do I love the world that Richelle Mead has created. In fact, I basically just all around love Richelle Mead. I am so jealous of her unborn...moreMan, oh man do I love the world that Richelle Mead has created. In fact, I basically just all around love Richelle Mead. I am so jealous of her unborn baby; if she makes half the mother she does a storyteller that kid is going to be ultra-lucky.
But enough of my mooning over the author… I don’t want to make her husband jealous, after all.
The Vampire Academy series is (one of) my all time favorites, so when Richelle announced the spin-off series I felt equal parts fear and anticipation. It’s so much easier to destroy a good thing than create one, and spin-offs have a lot of potential to sully their parent-project. As any Tammy-fan knows, sometimes it works, sometimes it really doesn’t.
For those of you who have read the Vampire Academy books, understand that Sydney is an immensely different person than Rose, so if you read that series for her, you may not enjoy the cross over to Bloodlines. If you read the Vampire Academy series for it’s world building, intrigue, characterization, and of course, the requisite cliff-hanger, then you’re in luck, because all of these elements transfer into this new series.
For those of you who have not read the Vampire Academy books, you will get by just fine reading Bloodlines alone. Richelle Mead does a good job of quickly and neatly addressing any need-to-know elements for new readers, without bogging down old fans. I do, however, think that your reading experience is going to be immensely enriched if you read the series in the order that they were published (not to mention, if you ever want to go back and read Vampire Academy, Bloodlines will have spoiled some major plot points because it takes place after the end of the first series).
Sydney is a very thoughtful, intelligent narrator, which I appreciated. She feels very human (bad word choice, I know,) with her strengths, weaknesses, desires, and idiosyncrasies. Her cluelessness at social norms was endearing and never failed to make me laugh. Of all the books Richelle Mead has penned, this one had the most character development--both from Sydney and secondary characters--and that's exciting to be a part of. Though speaking of…
“What,” demanded [censored] “are you guys talking about?” “Nothing of interest, I assure you,” said Abe, who was really enjoying this all too much. “Life lessons, character development, unpaid debts. That sort of thing”
I LOVE ABE. All in all, that was probably the best part of this book: getting to revisit those people that stole my heart the first time around. While I’m happy that Rose ended up with Dimitri, I am just as excited to continue spending time with Adrian on his path to finding himself and love. It’s reminiscent of The Bachelor, when they bring a boy from the previous season of The Bachelorette to star (speaking of, I hope ABC picks Ben F…). Also, I should probably mention that Richelle Mead is damned incredible at writing sexual tension… gives me shivers.
Bloodlines is an exciting continuation of where Vampire Academy left off. Because Sydney is brains and restraint where Rose is all brawn and impulse, the pacing of the novel is significantly slower than what you would find in the first series, but Richelle gives you other things to focus on. Between keeping track of Sydney, Eddie, Adrian, Jill, and all their new friends, we also have a couple of new characters that you can’t help but love to hate. It's no Vampire Academy, but I have faith that the series will get there; I give Bloodlines4 out of 5 Stars.
*Audiobook Note* For those of you who are ingesting these books via radio-waves, it should be noted that Penguin Audio picked Emily Shaffer to narrate again. Emily is wonderful, so I understand why they chose her, but she uses her Rose-voice for Sydney and her Lissa-voice for Jill, so I had a really hard time appreciating the unique voices Richelle gave her protagonists from series to series. For a fuller experience, I would absolutely suggest reading one of the series and listening to the other (or reading both).(less)
I adore this book. There was something very endearing, something very realistic about the characters and the relationships that developed. By all mean...moreI adore this book. There was something very endearing, something very realistic about the characters and the relationships that developed. By all means I should not have liked this book; mushy romances often embarrass me to read, and the cover just screams cutesy and cringe-worthy.
But have no worries! What is contained between these questionable covers is a perfectly swoon-worthy, believable romance. I loved watching Anna escalate between a silly, unreasonable girl with a crush and a girl that values herself too much to get walked all over by some boy. Because, I mean, as much as we (or is this just me?) like to pretend we aren't hopeless romantics, many of us fall prey to getting all melty and obsessed about the guys we like. But, unlike (many) other YA protagonists, that mindless agent-less girl isn't the only layer to Anna. She's smart, passionate, and has a lot of self respect.
I have never had so much fun watching a relationship develop over the course of any story. And it did develop: wonderfully, slowly, without any of that love at first sight nonsense. I really felt like I could relate to Anna. I simultaneously hated St. Claire for being a wimp, and loved him so, so much that I was constantly ready to forgive him if he would ever make the brave choice. His banter is super sexy (though, truthfully, I'm not sure I could date someone shorter than me). I loved that the characters in the book weren't all described as one kind of drop-dead gorgeous or another (cough-take a hint YA authors-cough) but like normal people. The friends in this book--both ones at boarding school and at home--felt fleshed out. Every relationship in the book was imperfect somehow, but that didn't mean they weren't worthwhile, and that's what gave them a depth that is so rare in secondary characters.
And, oh my gosh! How can you resist a book set in Paris? I couldn't believe it when I read that Stephanie Perkins doesn't actually live there, because her descriptions of the city were a wonderful part of the landscape of the narrative without getting distracting or slowing the pace.
Stephanie Perkins is a craft master. I loved the way we moved through the school year, skimming over some parts, zooming in on others. The book is beautiful. The setting, beautiful. The friendships, the depiction of families, the emotions and romance all beautiful. Is the book light and young? Yes, but I think even older readers can find something to enjoy (heck, I made my mother read it, and she also had great things to say), therefore, I give Anna and the French Kiss5 out of 5 Stars.
*Audiobook Note* The audiobook was very cute, and Kim Mai Guest did an excellent job. The only objection I have was with her voice for St. Clair--he's supposed to be British for godsake, and her version sounded vaguely like a lisp--but truthfully, this was something that didn't bother me much after listening for a while. I would recommend this audiobook to any interested listeners.(less)
Hello world, she's done it again. Stephanie Perkins has created complex, believable characters that make me wonder why I ever used to abhor Contempora...moreHello world, she's done it again. Stephanie Perkins has created complex, believable characters that make me wonder why I ever used to abhor Contemporary YA. Lola, Cricket, Max, Calliope, Lola's Dads and every character in this book felt fleshed out. That's one of the incredible things about Stephanie's writing: no character feels like a set piece or plot device. Like in Anna and the French Kiss (which, if you haven't read my review, I loved!), the characters were complex. No one was entirely lovable or blameless, but it was also really hard to fully villanize anyone--even when they acted terribly--because it was possible to understand why they were being irrational. Yes, that's how well formed these characters were.
The world, too, was wonderfully palpable. I have an absolute idea of what Lola's room, her house, her street, her work, and everything in between all look like. Once again, the setting of the book was an essential feature that added to, rather than pulled me out, of the book. There were no "Lord of the Fly-esque Million-page-landscape-descriptions" (ugh, don't get me started), rather the world seemed to just be sitting there, in complete HD, ready for me to hop on in.
I both enjoyed and was slightly uncomfortable with Lola's relationship with Max (she's 16 and he's 22 when they start dating), but the relationship was treated very fairly in the book. Don't get me wrong, I still seriously wanted to punch Max in the face. Repeatedly. But, I thought the portrayal of first love and Lola's desire to be and act older than she really is were both sensitively and realistically done. I also thought her relationship with Cricket was fun to watch re-blossom (they are so endearingly awkward, I couldn't help but giggle uncomfortably at multiple points myself).
I will say that this book did not come close to living up to Anna for me. I had a very serious issue with it that made it somewhat inaccessible. Lola feels so unbelievably young. I'm sure that part of this has to do with the fact that Anna is at boarding school and Lola is living with two very overbearing fathers (I mean, seriously! I can appreciate the love, but back off a little puh-leaze). Part of this is that she whines constantly. Most of this, though, really had to do with her relationships with Max and Cricket. Where as in Anna I understood what was keeping Etienne and Anna apart--even though it drove me crazy--in Lola there didn't seem to be any major obstacle other than Lola's own immaturity. I became very quickly frustrated with her constant denial and back-and-forthing, and unfortunately, this seemed to go on foreeeeevver. Maybe it's easier to excuse Etienne for staying with his girlfriend because he wasn't the narrator, maybe he was easier to excuse because I understood his fear of being alone. In any case, while I liked each character in the book, the experience was a little frustrating at times. As someone who is the same age as Max, I could not understand why he would date someone who acts like a child and lies like she breathes (though perhaps it is because he possesses an equal level of maturity development)....
Overall, I found Lola spunky and funny and I enjoyed the characterizations. I teared up during multiple scenes between her and her mother, and I absolutely ah-dored her quirky dads (when they weren't going psycho patrol-men). The writing is just as wonderfully crafted in this one, I just didn't like Lola as much as I liked Anna, which is entirely personal preference. My reservations about Lola's immaturity aside, there is a lot positive going for this book (eeee! sparkly costumes!) I give it 3.5 out of 5 Stars, and would recommend it to any reader. And besides, we get multiple cameos from Anna and Etienne!
*Audiobook Note* Shannon McManus did a very good job with this one, and I would suggest it for anyone interested.(less)