Monthly Archives: November 2013

18) Team Human

By: Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan

Date Finished: 10.19.13

by Justine Larbalestier & Sarah Rees Brennan


All the vampire wannabes and vamposeurs mystify me.  Who would choose the possibility of immortality over chocolate?

Welcome to New Whitby, Maine, a long-time haven for vampires and Mel’s hometown.  Even though vampires and humans have effeceintly co-existed here for decades, Mel decidedly does NOT want anything to do vampires.  Then one perfectly normal day, a vampire named Francis enrolls at her high school as a student and Mel’s best friend, Cathy, is immediately smitten.  Even worse, Francis seems determined to encourage Cathy’s affections.  Mel tries desperately to keep Cathy from going in too deep, but some people can’t help being Team Vampire.

First of all, it’s a parody of the current vampire craze.  It’s off-beat for a reason and is narrated by the best friend rather than the love interest.  Mel is the voice of vampire-groupie skeptics everywhere (which is generally where I fall) and the only logical character to give a parody viewpoint.

Second of all, it’s a mystery.  There’s more going on than just a teen romance and this subplot adds a gravity to an otherwise fluff book.  I appreciated the silliness, but I also appreciated the serious underbelly.

This is a book that needed to be written and this was a good pair of ladies to write it.  Unfortunately, it lacked a certain spark and didn’t dazzle me as much as I had hoped.  Mel is an impulsive and overbearing character — she has good intentions, but it’s difficult to follow her all the way down the path she takes.  It’s also surprisingly repetitive.  At a certain point, I was almost yelling at the book, “I get it!  You don’t like vampires!”  There are a number of redeeming aspects (namely, Kit, a human who’s lived with vampires since birth) but, sadly, Team Human is a brilliant idea that didn’t quite live up to it’s potential.

At the end of the day: Glad I read it, but not for me

17) Etiquette & Espionage

Book One of the Finishing School Series

By: Gail Carriger

Date Finished: 10.14.13

by Gail Carriger

Do you mean to traumatize me with riddles first thing in the morning?  If so, I should warn you, I’d consider that grounds for rescinding all offers of friendship.

In the pursuit of leaving no secret uncovered and much to her mother’s dismay, Sophronia constantly gets into one scrape after another.  At last her mother reaches the end of her patience and gives her up to finishing school.  Sophronia is horrified, dreading the tedious hours of etiquette lessons, but quickly discovers this is no ordinary finishing school.  Here they learn how to curtsy properly, how to dance, and how to entertain guests, yes, but they also learn how to deceive, how to manipulate, and an alarming number of ways to administer poison.  In the politest ways, of course.

From first glance, I thought this was an 1800s version of the Gallagher Girl novels by Ally Carter (I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You and others– follows a teenage girl attending a spy training program posing as an all-girls prep school.)

But, wait, there’s more!

Right away, it’s obvious that Etiquette & Espionage is also a Steampunk novel.  I’m comfortable with that.  Then, out of the blue, we’re told that vampires and werewolves exist as recognized members of society… Riiiight.  As it turns out, the vampire and werewolf characters are less distracting than the unreasonably grandiose names.  I ended up calling our main girl ‘Sophie’ because I didn’t want to sound it out every time.  Some other gems among the character names — Bumblesnoot, Frowbritcher, Mrs. Barnaclegoose, Lord Dingleproops — and did I mention Sophronia’s last name is Temminick?  And let’s not forget the eye-roll-inducing titles invented for this world:  Flywaymen?  Better watch out!  Mechanimals?  Oh, the horror!

I’m making fun of the book, but it’s actually quite enjoyable.  There’s a lot of absurdity that you just have to acknowledge and then accept, but if you expect fluff, you’ll be just fine.  Despite the ever-present ridiculousness, this is not a cookie-cutter story.  Sophie is a fun lead who brings her own energy to the spunky heroine archetype.  While she’s vivacious and smart, she still has a lot to learn at her finishing school and isn’t automatically a natural at everything by virtue of being the main character.  She makes some instant connections with her best friends, but has to work rather hard for her other friendships and is never a teacher’s pet.  These are small things, but it’s refreshing to see her earn the respect that’s given to her.

It’s not superlative writing, but it’s smart enough to hold your interest and lighthearted enough to be fun.  I would definitely recommend this book as an escape from a stressful week.

At the end of the day: For me.