Category: Paranormal

Realistic (?) vampires, finally; or, a review of What We’ll Do for Blood

Contrary to what you might expect based on my reviewing habits, I’m not always in the mood for vampires who act more like typical Evanescence fans than sociopathic monsters. Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from romance for a while and return to the roots of the genre.

You know, back when vampires looked like this. Also, why is he on a boat? I still need to see this movie.

If I recall correctly, Dracula had no redeeming qualities whatsoever and was a symbol of Class Conflict or Subversive Sexuality or STDs or the Dangers of Immigration and Foreign Influence depending on which academic interpretation you go by. Whatever the preferred diagnosis, though, I think one thing is indisputable: Dracula has no charm. True charm is genuine, even if it’s used to manipulate. There has to be a sense of humor in there somewhere. Dracula is a blood-drinking machine and his politeness is purely a means to an end. I can’t remember a single memorable thing Dracula said, though I remember the story in general. I think this is because Dracula is a force of nature or a symbol rather than a character. Still not sure what he’s supposed to be a symbol of.

In What We’ll Do for Blood, Maria (the vampire) is similar. She exists to drink blood. This is her only motivation. This may sound like Maria is overly simplistic, but no, Maria is an accomplished predator who excels at manipulation, deception, and brutality. Maria is terrifying because she works in the system to get what she wants. Like many real life abusers, she makes her victims seem unreasonable and dangerous when they defend themselves. If your neighbors aren’t vampires, of course, breaking and entering and trying to stake them is rather antisocial. Maria has a network of people she threatens and hypnotizes into donating blood; some of them know what she is, and some don’t. When she sets her sights on high school student Scott’s dad, the plot begins. It’s never clear whether Scott’s dad is having a genuine affair or is brainwashed by Maria’s vampire hypnosis (maybe both), but his constant visits to Maria’s house late at night throw Scott’s family into a tailspin.

So far, so good. My problem with Scott’s family is that, perhaps in an attempt to make them interesting, Mannarino skews too far in the other direction and makes them unsympathetic social climbers who never seem very distant from their son. Not that unsympathetic victims aren’t okay! But because Scott’s parents seemed to have few human moments, I never really felt Scott’s concern for them. I loved his sister Nikki, but that was it.

The ending, though, made up for it. I didn’t see it coming at all, but no spoilers. I just wish less time had been spent on Scott’s family and more time telling the story at the end. All the same, I look forward to the sequel. 🙂

I wanted to like it, but I COULDN’T, or, a review of A Great and Terrible Beauty

a great and terrible beauty

It’s not that I object to reading about schoolgirl bitchery, though it’s not exactly my preferred genre. Dumb schoolgirl bitchery, on the other hand…

I wanted to like this book. And, when I started, it had every promise of being likable. The setting of India was interesting, and the author took a risk in making her character a bit more historically accurate than most (at first). You see, Gemma Doyle is a bratty sixteen-year-old who hates living in India and makes no bones about it. I actually liked that detail because in historical fiction about Britain, India is usually presented as this far off exotic land tasting of spice and freedom–not an ordinary place with ordinary people. A sixteen-year-old British girl wanting to party in London seems pretty natural to me, regardless of how low she descends in reaching her objective. Continue reading “I wanted to like it, but I COULDN’T, or, a review of A Great and Terrible Beauty”

Reality: Only interesting when vampires and smartphones are involved (wait, what?), or, a review of Blood Calling

Blood Calling

It’s very hard to find a character with interests similar to mine, but this has changed. I am happy to report that I am represented in YA fiction–I have finally found a character who loves surfing the web and buying books on her smartphone as much as I do. At last I am validated. I can’t cast spells like Harry. I can’t shoot arrows like Katniss. But wasting time online? That’s something I can do, and I’ve never been prouder to do it. Continue reading “Reality: Only interesting when vampires and smartphones are involved (wait, what?), or, a review of Blood Calling”

Kitty and Nom Noms: The Love Story, or, a review of Eclipse (MAJOR SPOILERS AND RAMBLING)

Oh, do we have a pickle. Wolfie, the dark horse of New Moon, wants to eat Kitty. Kitty wants to eat Nom Noms, but she’s too cute to eat. In other words, the drama continues.

The plot…the plot…Everyone knows the plot. Victoria assembles a newborn army, Edward tries the “buy the cow and get the milk” approach to get Bella to marry him, Jacob pouts a lot and becomes very creepy, Edward is also creepy, but in a less rapey way, and Bella puts up with way too much manipulation (courtesy of Edward) and douchiness (courtesy of Jacob). Continue reading “Kitty and Nom Noms: The Love Story, or, a review of Eclipse (MAJOR SPOILERS AND RAMBLING)”

The only thing hotter than an angel is a competent heroine, or, a review of Angelfall

It is a testament to this story that it features a badass, incredibly beautiful angel and yet someone else steals the show. And no, the person who steals the show is not the adorable, funny, hot demon love interest. (Yes, I read Fallen. Yes, I squeed over Cam. Those days are behind me. I think.) It was the heroine. Yes, that’s right. The ordinary, human heroine is the most compelling character.

anime Thor and Loki
This gif accurately captures my emotions.

Continue reading “The only thing hotter than an angel is a competent heroine, or, a review of Angelfall”

A letter to Edward, or, an epistolary review of New Moon

Spoilers, just so you know. Oh, and here’s a song to describe everyone’s angst for your reading pleasure.

Dear Edward,

I am quite impressed with how efficiently you destroyed Bella’s self-esteem for all of eternity. Taking the “you’re cramping my vampire lifestyle” approach was simply brilliant. Indeed, it shows how well you know her–how else could you have convinced her to let you go? What can I say, the manipulator in me loves the manipulator in you. With that said…

I also hate you. You just left your depressed and fragile girlfriend in the woods over something someone else did. Whatever happened to “I’m not the most dangerous thing out there”? SHE COULD BE EATEN, EDWARD. BY MOUNTAIN LIONS. Or….BY WOLVES (heh heh). Continue reading “A letter to Edward, or, an epistolary review of New Moon”

Douchelords ruin everything, or, a review of The Summoning

I was and have been in a bit of a reading slump this year, so my friend kindly lent me Kelley Armstrong’s The Summoning. All I knew going in was the main character is a friendly necromancer, and I was ready to be pleased. And I was. But also a little disappointed. Spoilers ahead.

Things that made SiameseMayhem happy

Chloe. Just Chloe. This girl is logical, she treats life like her own personal screenplay, and she wants to be a director when she grows up. It is SO nice to have a well-rounded heroine with goals who doesn’t immediately flop over when she meets her hero who may or may not have sparkly abs (not that there’s anything wrong with that. Boys have every right to sparkle). Really, this girl is amazing. Did I mention that she outlogics the annoyingly smug and stoic Derek, our hero and completely owns him? More on Derek later.

The worldbuilding and writing are excellent. The horrifying conclusion comes slowly, but enough hints are dropped to let us know that something is definitely wrong with Lyle House, the mental asylum Chloe is temporarily staying at after her mental breakdown. Or rather, what everyone thinks is a mental breakdown. In reality, Chloe’s necromancy is surfacing, and the ghosts all want a piece of the only girl who can talk to them and give their souls rest. Naturally, Chloe screams a lot, as would anyone, and is forced into a two week stay at Lyle House or the incident will go on her record. At Lyle House, she meets many interesting people, who may also have supernatural abilities.

I love this premise, because of course people’s reaction to kids who have telekinesis and sorcery and necromancy would be to lock them up. Each of the kids at Lyle House have their own stories and secrets that Chloe and the reader slowly uncover. Each character is respected by the narrative.

Things that made SiameseMayhem’s heart black with kitty rage

One word. Derek. And yes, I know, it’s a controversial opinion. But hear me out. Derek basically spends the whole book trying to tell Chloe that her ability to see ghosts is necromancy and should be embraced, not suppressed. Okay, fine. But do it in a less douchey way. Also, please don’t throw her across a room. Like, yeah, I get it, you wanted to keep her from leaving so you could tell her more about her Secret Powers TM, but if you have a history of underestimating your strength, maybe you shouldn’t grab people in the first place. Also, if you’re really going to wristgrab people, I’m sure K-drama heroes would be more than willing to teach you a few pointers, in between saving heroines and corporate takeovers.

Yes, I know you’re a werewolf with hygiene issues who just can’t heeeeelp himself. And I would consider forgiving you if you offered a better apology than

“No, excuse, like you said. You want me to stay away from you? Wish granted.”


“…Now run along and take your meds and be a good girl. Don’t worry, I’ll stay out of your way from now on. Seems like I made a mistake. A big mistake.”

Yes, Derek, I know you had an offscreen freakout, but you could show a little more respect to the person you injured. Because you’re not really apologizing to Chloe. You’re making this all about you. To provide some background, Chloe accidentally lets slip to her aunt that Derek assaulted her; Aunt is understandably furious and tells a nurse. Derek feels betrayed by this. Yes, really. I appreciate that several characters take Chloe’s assault seriously. Unfortunately, this solidarity is undermined when one of those characters turns out not-so-trustworthy.

Moreover, an indirect connection is made between Chloe and Derek’s abilities. When defending his brother, Simon’s response is,

 “…He didn’t mean to. If you saw how freaked out he was last night, you’d know that.”

Later, Chloe accidentally places dead souls back in their rotting corpses, which creates a thoroughly awful situation dead and living alike. Chloe and the ghost’s conversation goes like this:

 “I didn’t mean–”

“Oh, do you hear that, Michael? She didn’t mean it….So if I accidentally unleash a storm of hellfire on your head, it’ll be all right, as long as I didn’t really mean it?”

Chloe is now in Derek’s place, having used her powers to harm someone, except not really. Chloe literally had no idea what would happen and was trying to contact a ghost who wanted to be contacted, only to get way more contact than she intended. Derek grabbed someone despite having multiple experiences proving that this was a bad idea. Chloe, even if she did use the “I didn’t mean it” excuse, reacted with contrition, not bitterness towards her victim.

Meh. I always did like vampires better.

However, I did like one thing about Derek. He wasn’t pretty, unlike all the other Edward-clones currently running around in YA. He had acne. He had to shower a lot. I just wish he could have showed some decent remorse, instead of ruining this for me with his douchey tendencies.

Worth a read?

Yes, absolutely. The plot and characterization are top-notch, and, despite Derek mucking everything up, this remains one of my best reads of 2014 (I only read three books this year? SHHHH). With that said, I probably won’t be reading any of the next books because I’m just that petty and if there’s one thing I remember, it is a hero’s sins.

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