Friday, February 28, 2014

Vampire Academy | Book Review

Vampire Academy
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was recommended to me YEARS ago by a good friend, and I just kept putting it off. (Vamps went out of fashion, ya know. And I was trying to keep up with the fads. Are we over dystopias yet?) Anyway, now I'm pissed I put it off so long AND that I missed the movie while it was in theaters! Boo hiss.

Color Me: Bitten and Smitten. I reeeeeeally liked this book. I'm actually completely in likes with this book.

Writing Technique: ★★★1/2 Mead's got good style. I like it. Her pacing is phenomenal. Her prose is clean and engaging, not overdone or over-the-top (which, in the hands of someone else, it totally could have been). A solid B in technique with extra credit points for writing in first person but having a reasonable way of writing about things the narrator shouldn't be able to know. (That Rose-Lissa mind-bond business was actually a great idea.)

Character Development: ★★★★ I can just let out a raging WHOOP at a heroine who isn't a reactionary dyed in the wool introvert?! I'm sooooo bored of introverts. Rose is legit hilarious. Sassy and smart-mouthed and okay...kind of a bitch (character flaw!). She doesn't wait for things to happen. She makes things happen. She's driven... and NOT BY BOYS (for the most part). Her motivation is her super(naturally) close relationship with her best friend. In fact, their friendship is awesome. Not perfect. But very admirable. i loved this chick. I loved watching her grow up and take responsibility and learn... stuff. Also Lissa (the best friend) had some growing and learning to do too. I liked her, but she's mostly a quiet introvert time and blahblahblah. Although to be fair, she did some crazy dark ish in a power craze. So yeah...

Plot/Story Development: ★★★1/2 We got lore, we got legends, we got a weird vocab that has a lot of -oi words. But I bought it. Great world building here. Suspense. Stakes. Foreshadowing. Plot twists. I thought it was fun, if a little predictable. While some storylines were closed, others were left open to be explored, I assume, in the following books. Yay.

Message/Theme: ★★★ Friendship, and the lengths we'll go to for those we love. Also mental illness, depression, self-harm, darker natures. And--YA classic tropes--the power of juicy gossip, the craze of raging hormones, and the inevitable journey of self-discovery.

Overall: ★★★★ Mostly because I really couldn't put it down. It was addicting. The story itself might have been a little lean. But it was tight. And funny. And different than other paranormal stories. Not really a romance. And I was surprised and delighted. Four delicious stars.

NOW I MUST GO SEE THE MOVIE. But I think it looks awesome.

Recommendation: The SHIVER series by Maggie Stiefvater (duh. obviously, but not really because they are super similar.)

View all my reviews

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Tiny Tiny's First Christmas | A Short Story

It's cold. Tiny Tiny's mocha-colored skin had the goosebumps to prove it. He had been displeased by the temperature since his birth six months earlier. Somehow it was never quite right—too hot or too cold always. But now it was especially unpleasant. The Milk Woman—“Mommy,” as she called herself—dressed Tiny Tiny in long sleeves which were difficult to get on. Tiny Tiny was used to his arms being pulled this way and that. But now he was also wearing pants which was not as much fun as not wearing pants. Also when he had to get his diaper changed, it was always so brrrrr across his parts. It made him shiver and yell and squirm even more throughout the process—and occasionally he would sprinkle straight up in the air on The Milk Woman and himself, which was actually kind of funny.
     The Milk Woman said, “Ooooh, it's so cool outside, baby,” every single day. Then she’d say, "I can't believe it's winter already. Geez." They didn’t go outside pretty much at all. Which was how it’d been since he was born, and both he and The Milk Woman actually kind of prefered it that way. But if they did go outside, they liked it to be the eyes-closed kind of day—yellow everywhere, too bright to see anything. Sunny, she called it.
     Last week, they did go outside. It was a strange place Tiny Tiny had never been to before—and not sunny at all. They went with The Hairy Man—“Daddy” is what The Milk Woman called him (as well as “Husband” and “Lover” and “Hey” and “What’s for dinner?”). Tiny Tiny clung to The Milk Woman’s shoulder and shirt collar as they followed The Hairy Man through a room full of big green things.
     “This one?” The Hairy Man asked.
     “No. It’s too short,” The Milk Woman replied.
     “It’s not short,” he said.
     “It’s like seven feet. It’s barely bigger than you,” she said and shifted Tiny Tiny a few inches on her hip.
     Tiny Tiny succeeded in grabbing a fistful of The Milk Woman’s hair and pulled it to his mouth. It tasted awful. But he couldn’t stop trying to eat it. The Milk Woman pried his fingers open and offered him her hand to play with instead. He stared at it in fascination and then bit eagerly. It wasn’t so bad. It felt good on his gums. But where was the milk?
     “What about this?” The Hairy Man said.
     “I guess that’s not bad. What do you think, baby?” She snapped her fingers by his head, and his eyes flicked toward the sound. In front of him was a huge green thing that looked like it wanted to be touched. So he reached out. It was spiky, but didn’t hurt. Pokey, but not prickly. He liked it. He wanted to eat it.
     “That’s a Christmas tree, baby. You like it?”
     He did like it. He grasped a branch and pulled it toward his mouth, going cross-eyed with the effort. The Milk Woman laughed and pried his fingers away.
     “I guess this is the one.”
     Tiny Tiny suddenly realized he had a hand right there, his hand, and it was fascinating and he touched one with the other and held them and put them to his mouth where drool was spilling out and pooling on his onesie. They tasted weird. Not like his hands normally tasted at all. He spit his tongue out and tried to lick the flavor away before sticking his hands back in. Agh! That was worse. It tasted…green.
     “Did you smell the Christmas tree, Tiny Tiny?”
     The Milk Woman leaned his face toward the tree. He reached for it again. And when he breathed, it smelled like the taste on his hands. It smelled green. It was a strange smell. But not bad. But not good either. He crinkled his nose and furrowed his brow and puckered his lips and gurgled. The Milk Woman laughed, and he looked at her confused and touched her face and smiled and laughed and tried to grab her hair and eat it.
     “Yay, baby! We have a Christmas tree for your very first Christmas. Isn’t that fun?!” The Milk Woman sang. And Tiny Tiny was warm and happy and smelled green like the tree for ten whole minutes until he fell asleep to the sound of The Hairy Man tying the tree to the roof of the car.


This Christmas thing was apparently a big deal, Tiny Tiny quickly learned. The tree came into their house. The Hairy Man carried it all by himself while The Milk Woman carried Tiny Tiny and shouted happily at The Hairy Man all way up the stairs and inside. They played with the tree and dressed it up. And after many hours of tinkering and singing with the radio, The Milk Woman hoisted Tiny Tiny up to see something amazing. The tree now had lights. Glowy twinkly lights. Some were white. Some were other colors. And there were fuzzy white things hanging there. Yep, fuzzy white things. Shiny red things. Sparkly, glittery, dangly things. Thing and things everywhere, all over the tree—all looking very much like they wanted to be grabbed and eaten. Tiny Tiny reached and touched, but The Milk Woman moved before he could get a good hold on anything. So he patted her chest and squealed.


Soon more colors arrived. A man came to the door over and over and brought The Milk Woman boxes.The Hairy Man took the boxes—some as big as Tiny Tiny—and wrapped them in pretty blue paper and pretty red paper and pretty green paper, and then he stuck bows on top—silver and white and red. The boxes were stacked under the tree messily where The Milk Woman looked at them frequently and smiled. And Tiny Tiny looked at her frequently and smiled.


They went outside again one day. This time it was Tiny Tiny, The Milk Woman, The Hairy Man, and Smiley Friend. Smiley Friend—“Caitlin,” The Milk Woman called her—came over to Tiny Tiny’s house all the time and watched the big screen with The Milk Woman and talked happily and bounced Tiny Tiny on the big orange ball. She smelled nice. On the day they went outside, Smiley Friend held a black thing to her face for several hours while Tiny Tiny, The Milk Woman, and The Hairy Man smiled at her and laughed and played. They let him sit in a cool box that looked like one from under the tree at home. He tried to eat it. They let him play with a bow. He tried to eat that too. They put a hat on his head that was red and white and felt funny. The Milk Woman wore a red hat that bounced on her head. The Hairy Man wore a green and red one with fake ears. They looked funny, but they still smelled right. They kissed his cheeks. They tickled his sides. They tossed him in the air. They passed him back and forth and smiled and laughed and cheered for him. And Smiley Friend kept the black box by her face and said, “Perfect!” and “Beautiful!” and “Look over here, baby!” and “Tiny Tiny! What’s that?! Boo!” and “Say cheeeeeeese!” all the time. When they were finally done, The Milk Woman held Tiny Tiny close and kissed his nose, eyelids, cheeks, lips, ear, and neck and said, “You’re such a good boy, baby. You did so good for the pictures. I’m so proud of you. Way to go, buddy. Mommy loves you so much. Yes, she does. Yes, she does. You’re so freaking beautiful,” like she always does. Tiny Tiny grunted that he was tired and cold and ready to go home, but first he wanted some milk. He’d earned it. So The Milk Woman gave him milk, and he fell asleep in her arms.


One day, The Milk Woman woke Tiny Tiny with a big smile and the words, “It’s Christmas Eve, baby!” With that, The Milk Woman chattered away, eliciting smiles and giggles from Tiny Tiny who just loved to hear her voice. The words “Christmas Eve” were repeated over and over throughout the day. He didn’t know what it was, but it felt fun and happy and special. The Milk Woman spent the day singing with the radio and dancing with Tiny Tiny around the living room.
     At one point, she dipped his feet in something bright and wet and tried to press them on a glass ball. Tiny Tiny squirmed and groaned and tried to grab his toes. The Milk Woman squealed, “Don’t touch the paint, baby! We have to put footprints on these ornaments for Grammy and Nanny.” She called The Hairy Man over to help, and he held Tiny Tiny’s arm’s still while she worked. It was messy. The wet bright color got all over Tiny Tiny and The Hairy Man and The Milk Woman until she finally gave up, laughing, and put the baby in the bathtub.


Tiny Tiny loved bath time. He splashed and kicked and sucked on the washcloth and bit the little yellow duck The Milk Woman offered him. It was warm and nice in the tub. When he finally got out, The Milk Woman cuddled him in his blue monkey towel and dressed him in his favorite pajamas. “Now you smell all clean for Nanny,” she said. Tiny Tiny didn’t know what that meant. But he liked being all clean anyway.
     The Hairy Man left by himself at one point and when he returned, there was someone new with him. She was short with red hair and a big smile for Tiny Tiny. The Milk Woman handed him over immediately and said, “Remember Nanny?” Tiny Tiny let the new lady hold him. She was soft and warm and he wanted to grab her hair and eat it. So he did.
     “Did you miss Nanny?” Red Hair Lady asked, covering his face with kisses. He tried to grab her lips, but she just kissed his palms and cuddled him for a long time while she talked to The Milk Woman and The Hairy Man until he was cranky and hungry and tired and they all went to bed.


The next morning, The Hairy Man got up first. Tiny Tiny could hear voices from his place in the bed next to The Milk Woman who still slept. He grunted and reached for her face. He patted her chest and she smiled. Shifting him up on the pillow by her face, she kissed his nose and said, “Merry Christmas, baby.” He patted her cheek and gurgled happily. They joined the voices in the living room which turned out to be The Hairy Man and Red Hair Lady.
     “Good morning,” Red Hair Lady said.
     “Merry Christmas,” The Hairy Man said. He gave Tiny Tiny a kiss on the head and The Milk Woman a kiss on the lips.
     Everyone was chattering cheerily, and Tiny Tiny joined in, to everyone’s delight. Finally they sat him on the floor near the tasty green tree and gave him a box. He loved the box. It was as big as him and pretty colors. He slapped at it and bit at it and loved it a lot. The Milk Woman tore at the pretty colors. It make an amazing sound that scared Tiny Tiny at first then thrilled him. He grabbed a piece of the paper and tugged, ripping it further. He was so excited to have such a pretty noisy piece of something to eat. Everyone watched him and laughed. The Hairy Man held the black box to his face and made noises. The Milk Woman tore the pretty paper away from the box and opened it and revealed toys inside! Bright noisy toys to play with. They were harder to grab and eat than the paper or the box. But he still loved them. They did this several times—played with paper and opened boxes and discovered toys and books and clothes inside—until he was surrounded by a mountain of gifts and he squealed in approval and exhaustion.
     The Milk Woman, The Hairy Man, and Red Hair Lady got things too. They didn’t seem to love the paper as much as Tiny Tiny, but they smiled and laughed at their gifts and made a mess of their boxes too. The Hairy Man turned on the screen and a picture danced before them and he heard the word “Christmas” over and over again. The Milk Woman played with Tiny Tiny and his new toys while The Hairy Man made loud noises and weird smells in the kitchen.
     “Daddy’s making a turkey,” The Milk Woman said. “And sweet potatoes. And green beans. What else are we having, hon?” she asked toward the kitchen.
     “Biscuits,” The Hairy Man said to her.
     “Biscuits!” she said to me.
     “And apple pie.”
     “Apple pie? We love apple pie, don’t we, baby?”
     Tiny Tiny didn’t care about apple pie, but he loved The Milk Woman and The Hairy Man and Red Hair Lady. And with all the lights and smells and boxes and paper and laughs and smiles and music and holiday cheer, Tiny Tiny thought he really loved Christmas too.
     The sun set on Christmas day, and when Tiny Tiny closed his eyes and fell asleep next to The Milk Woman, he dreamed of red paper with white snow flakes on it and the crinkle it made and the way he could stuff it in his mouth. He laughed in his sleep.
     And Tiny Tiny was perfectly happy on his very first Christmas ever.

Tiny Tiny’s First Christmas
By Dana J. Moore
Written December 2013

Author's note: I decided last year that I would write my son (and whatever future children I may have) a Christmas story every year. This is the first of them all. It is a fictionalization of things that Wash actually did experience throughout his first holiday season. It doesn't have the traditional plot escalation stories usually do (and should have). But that wasn't the point of this tale. As a first time mom, I just wanted to document what I saw my baby experience for the very first time. Every day is amazing for me because I get to watch him discover the world a little more. Even more so at Christmas.