Monday, August 18, 2014

This Week on Netflix: Princess Jellyfish

I have decided that each week I am going to discuss the best of the shows or movies that E and I have started to watch on Netflix. Maybe you will decide to watch it too. Because let’s face it there are some great things on Netflix, but slogging through everything can be a bit difficult. Of course I will always take your considerations if you have them because I, too, am always looking for something new to watch.

This week I bring you Princess Jellyfish or Kuragehime.

Based on the manga of the same name Tsukimi Tsukimi is shy, awkward, and obsessed with jellyfish. She lives in an apartment with several other otaku women who are all nerdy about something in particular from trains to kimonos. As NEETs, the women avoid social interactions as much as possible and above all else: the stylish. But then a stylish woman helps Tsukimi save a jellyfish (later named Clara) from a petshop, except that ‘she’ turns out to be a guy (which is even scarier than a Stylish). The two form a friendship that surprises them both and turns the little ‘nunnery’ apartment building on its head.

It’s a great little anime though incredibly short (only 11 episodes). Tsukimi is awkward, full of anxiety and self-doubt, but extremely likable. As a nerd girl myself I believe I may have turned to stone once or twice when a member of the opposite sex spoke to me in my adolescent years. Tsukimi and the other lady geeks in the building are fiercely protective of the things that they like and admittedly do not like anyone bullying them about their geeky loves. I get it. While their characters may be a bit exaggerated, I still love each and every one of them. Kuranosuke is equally likable. He has always been around stylish ladies, but finds himself drawn to the quirky little inhabitants of the building, especially Tsukimi. He doesn’t understand it, but we do. There is something incredibly relatable about Tsukimi and quite endearing. They are destined to be together…it must be so. I love Kuranosuke, not because he has a fabulous sense of style or the reasons for his cross dressing, but how down to earth he is. He doesn’t understand the hang-ups that his brother or his new set of friends have, but he doesn’t care in the end.

But this anime is not about their romance. It’s a comedy. While the relationship between Kuranosuke and Tsukimi is the main focus of the show, the big subplot involves the potential sale of the building where the ladies live and their efforts to damn the man and save the empire…their empire. It’s about the family you make, about learning to love yourself including your nerdiness, and to never give up. It’s honest. It’s funny. And I want more episodes.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Snowpiercer: A Review

Snowpiercer (2014)
Directed By: Bong Joon-ho
Written By: Bong Joon-ho and Kelly Masterson
Genre:ACTION ADVENTURE/SCI FI
Rated: R
Time: 126 min
Starring: Chris Evans, Song Kangho, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, Ewen Brewmner, Alison Pill, John Hurt, Ed Harris
Plot: "Snowpiercer," based on the French graphic novel "Le Transperceneige," is set in a future where, after a failed experiment to stop global warming, an Ice Age kills off all life on the planet except for the inhabitants of the Snow Piercer, a train that travels around the globe and is powered by a sacred perpetual-motion engine. A class system evolves on the train but a revolution brews.

Comments: Joon-ho Bong has done some great films, The Host and Mother being two of them. Now most people haven’t heard about Snowpiercer or are lucky enough to have it show up in their local theater. I knew that US distributors wanted to cut 20 minutes from the film, but the director wouldn’t budge and good for him. Luckily the same time it is out in theaters, it is also available through our XboxOne.

Based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, created by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand, and Jean-Marc Rochette, Snowpiercer shows a bleak future. Its 2031 and humans have officially destroyed the planet resulting in a bleak and frozen wasteland. The survivors live on a transcontinental train constantly circling the ruined world thanks to the ingenuity of an eccentric industrialist named Wilford. 17 years after the disaster the train may be a key to humanity’s survival but it is not so great for those who live in the tail section. These were the survivors who didn’t pay the exorbitant fees to live in the front sections. They are the have-nots, surviving any which way they can in their dirty, overcrowded quarters. There are no windows, only protein bars for food, and very little hope. That changes when Curtis (Chris Evans) has decided that enough is enough. Take the engine…control the train, control the world.

Along with his friend Edgar (Jamie Bell), and mentor Gilliam (John Hurt) they hatch a plan to rise up against the upper class. But it is easier said than done. Revolts have failed before. It is only after a brutal reminder of their place in this new world and the stealing of two Tail Section children, that they act. But Wilford has his own army ruled by his Prime Minister Mason (Tilda Swinton, who steals every scene she is in) and they are prepared to issue even more cruel brutality. In order for the plan to work, they need to find security expert Namgoong Minsoo (Kang-ho Song) and try to survive their way to the front.

The two things that stand out the most for me were the set designs and Tilda Swinton. Let’s talk about Tilda. I love her to pieces and Orlando continues to be one of my favorite films. As Mason with her horrid fake teeth, expensive furs and decadent splashes of color amidst the tale section’s bleakness she cannot help but stand out. ‘Be a shoe, not a hat’. The other performances are great as well and I continue to believe that Chris Evans is a decent actor as he matures (Sunshine is when I first said hmmm, so much better than Johnny Storm). I guess one of the things that I like about the characters are that there are no black and whites when it comes to morality. Curtis has done some pretty horrible things, but he’s our hero right? Same goes with Gilliam? I love that.

The other thing that really stands out is the sheer beauty of the visuals. As the journey to the front of the train continues we go from bleak grays, browns, and blacks to more and more color. Each train car is unique from the confines of the back to a greenhouse where little old ladies go to knit and have their tea. We have a sushi bar complete with aquarium, a meat freezer, a spa with individual saunas, a pool car, a restaurant or two, a beauty salon, a nightclub with adjacent drug room, and a school (probably one of the craziest and coolest scenes in the film). Seriously I love the train itself.

It’s a great film about social stratification something many of us are all too aware of. It’s a classic battle between the rich and the poor, a theme that has been explored before. But the film is also about, a very socialist idea, that the poor need to exist so that the wealthy have value. Wilford firmly believes that his little world has balance and in order to continue that balance there has to be the haves and have-nots. It’s a crazy little world though where the Tail Sectioners are little more than pawns. They do not do any manual labor in the tail section, they merely exist in their poverty. That is their purpose.

There are some things I didn’t like about the film of course. I hated the ending. In fact I would have liked the film so much more if I hadn’t watched the last 5 minutes as all suspension of disbelief went right out the window. It almost ruined it, but not quite.

Rent/Cinema? Cinema (If you can). While I hated the ending, I did spend the other 2 hours really enjoying the film. It’s beautiful, heartbreaking, absurd, crazy, and thrilling. Completely worth watching.

4/4 popcorns

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Savage Nature: A Review

Savage Nature
Written by: Christine Feehan
Paperback: 379 pages
Publisher: Piatkus Books
Language: English
May 2011
Genre: Romance

When Saria Boudreaux finds a dead body in the Louisiana bayou near her home, her first instinct is to go to the police. But there's a problem: it looks like the victim may have been killed by a big cat - and her brothers are all shape-shifting leopards. Sent by the land's owner to investigate, leopard-shifter Drake Donovan is ready for anything - except the insatiable hunger that rocks him when he meets Saria. Deep in his soul he knows that she is destined to be his mate. Torn between protecting her brothers and finding the truth, Saria treads warily around the powerful shifter. Yet as they venture deep into the mysterious bayou on a hunt for the killer, Saria finds herself longing for Drake's touch and the sweet release of surrender.

+++++++++++++

Last month for book club the girls and I decided to do a beach read. Our task choose the most trashy romance novel you can find based on cover and title alone. Now I used to read romance novels when I was a teenager and had my own little collection of harlequins stashed away. And then I grew up. I guess I started to prefer reading my urban fantasy at the beach rather than a bodice ripper. I wanted plot. I wanted character development. I wanted lines that didn’t include ‘see how my body weeps for you’. Bodice rippers bring out the snark in me. I find them hilarious. But it’s the summer…

So I did what we had agreed. Off to the local bookstore I went. I contemplated your typical bodice ripper full of period dresses and heaving bosoms because let’s face it those covers are great. But I decided I wanted something more modern. Now remember I couldn’t read the back blurb, my choice was based on title and cover alone. Savage Nature. Well now that sounds good. I picked it up. Even better since the title on the cover is in glittery holographic gold. You know it has to be good. The cover itself is a jungly, now that I have read it perhaps bayou-y looking setting with a leopard perched on a tree above a short haired, tank top wearing blonde. I am thinking tomb raider-esque story. ‘She’ll fall prey to peril and passion’. See this might be good. I apparently ignored the whole ‘A Leopard novel’ which in my addled brain I would have taken to mean that the blonde and Nathan Drake are either searching for an elusive Leopard object or that they decide to save some leopards…or something. I should have known it was paranormal romance. Bonus to the cover though it opens up to show another cover of our hero a ripped specimen of man. At least I got some eye candy.

Saria has lived her entire life on the bayou of Louisiana taking care of the family business and her home since she was a girl. With 5 older brothers you would think she would have had help. Instead she grew up to be a fierce and independent woman, a guide for hire and a photographer. One night as she is taking photographs she finds a body in the swamp. But this isn’t just an ordinary murder, it’s a leopard shifter murder and all of her brothers are leopard shifters. She contacts outside help hoping that someone will come in and help her figure things out before someone else dies.

Help comes in the form of Drake Donovan, a leopard shifter and dominant alpha male. Drake is surprised not only to discover that Saria is a leopard as well, but that she is his mate. The only problem…Saria has no idea she is a shifter. It’s a race against time not only to discover the killer, but prepare Saria for what is about to happen, and maybe fall in love as well.

The Review:
The moment Drake shows up all of that independence, intelligence, and determination goes out the window. Suddenly she is a naïve ingénue that is not only willing to jump into bed with her new handsome stranger, but believe every word he is telling her. She has known him for about 24 hours. This personality shift was so jarring that I almost gave up right there. Plus I think the whole ‘mate’, pre-destined love thing in a trope that I could live without. I find it boring as it takes out any romantic tension of will they or wont they. There is no courtship. No fire. No surprises (even though yes we know they will end up together at the end of the book). I would like to say that Saria is suspicious of this undeniable connection Drake has with her, but not really. She too easily goes along with it even though she has known this man for less than a week.

Now I am a dire hard romantic, but I am also a realist. As much as I want the fairytale romance of love at first sight and all of that schtick. I believe in lust at first sight. Love grows. Love is earned. Maybe it’s because I am a bit of a romantic cynic who has been hurt before and therefore careful with my heart, but I wouldn’t be willing to give up my entire way of life, my ideals, my strength, and my independence for a man I met a few days ago. This is why I gave up on Saria.

I gave up on the shifters because I don’t really buy a couple of things. One, it is rather convenient that female leopards emerge far after puberty (because apparently you’re not allowed to have a sexual awakening until you are in your twenties or however old Saria was supposed to be) and that Drake showed up just in the nick of time as his soul mate was going through this lustful change (*eye roll*). And really Saria didn’t have a clue about her heritage when…EVERYONE…else in the book knew. She discovered her brothers’ secrets, why wouldn’t she discover her own. Someone would have slipped up some time in her life. Now this is the 5th book in Feehan’s series about the Leopard People so maybe there are explanations for all of this in the other books. Somehow I doubt it.

The mystery was fine though a bit forced but fine. The smuttiness fine though please stop saying that a first time is going to be frakking awesome with a large man. I don’t care how experienced he is and how in heat or whatever. Just. Stop. Seriously sometimes I feel like romance novels are written by men fulfilling their wish fantasies instead of our own, but maybe I am just a weird girl. Yep, that’s probably it.

I will say I had a nice picture in my head of the way the bayou looked and all of the locals had nice True Blood accents in my head. So that was a like.

Buy or Borrow: Borrow. In the end this was not for me. I did not find it sexy. It was not a quick read and took itself far too seriously. I’m going back to my Kate Daniels series and have some nice Curran and Kate times. Or hell even look up some of my old harlequins. Gods, I am so not a girly girl sometimes.

Part of:Series. Part of the Leopard People series

Also Recommended: For some shifter romance, try the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs or even more romance heavy the Alpha and Omega series also by Patricia Briggs.

1.5 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy: A Review

Guardians of the Galaxy
Directed By: James Gunn
Written By: James Gunn and Nicole Perlman
Genre:ACTION ADVENTURE/SCI FI
Rated: R
Time: 121 min
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, Michael Rooker

Plot: From Marvel, the studio that brought you the global blockbuster franchises of "Iron Man," "Thor," "Captain America" and "The Avengers," comes a new team—the Guardians of the Galaxy. An action-packed, epic space adventure, Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy" expands the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the cosmos, where brash adventurer Peter Quill finds himself the object of an unrelenting bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by Ronan, a powerful villain with ambitions that threaten the entire universe. To evade the ever-persistent Ronan, Quill is forced into an uneasy truce with a quartet of disparate misfits—Rocket, a gun-toting raccoon, Groot, a tree-like humanoid, the deadly and enigmatic Gamora and the revenge-driven Drax the Destroyer. But when Quill discovers the true power of the orb and the menace it poses to the cosmos, he must do his best to rally his ragtag rivals for a last, desperate stand—with the galaxy's fate in the balance.

Comments: Most who know me understand that I am a fairly big Marvel fan, but until the first couple of trailers for Guardians of the Galaxy, I had never really read anything with them unless it was in passing. That has now changed.

I think one of the biggest reasons I was looking forward to Guardians was the abundance of snark and pop culture references. With all of the seriousness of Captain America 2 and the latest Thor, it was nice to see previews for something a little less...dramatic (not that I don’t love the Marvel Universe in films right now…trust me I totally do). Bonus, I really love misfits and antiheroes (looking at you Mal and Jayne). I also really like James Gunn who brought me Slither and wrote the Dawn of the Dead reboot as well as the game Lollipop Chainsaw which makes me giggle. So yeah, I was kind of psyched to see it. Which I have now done twice.

While Starlord may be the main character, it is such an ensemble piece that you cannot help but love every single one of the Guardians. Groot and Rocket are my favorite because really you cannot have one without the other. And they steal absolutely every scene that they are in. Sure Groot may just say “I am Groot”, but the big tree is one of my favorite. The CGI on him is marvelous and the expressions priceless. Same goes with Rocket who looks amazing. There were very few times that I found the CGI distracting or wholly unrealistic. Also I want a mini Groot that dances kind of like the little sun plant toy I got from Japan. Or you know a real Groot. That would be fine too. Bradley Cooper as Rocket does a great job of inserting the snark whenever and wherever possible. As a snark lover, this endears him to me. Also the Ranger Rick nickname. And he almost made me cry, stupid furball.

Chris Pratt as Peter Quill is perfect. While I am still getting to know Quill in the comics I think Pratt did a wonderful job and I cannot wait to see him again in the next Guardians film. Or other things so I am quite pleased that he is the lead in the next Jurassic Park. Gamora (Saldana) not only has amazing hair, but she brings a whole lot of kick ass to the group being an assassin and all. Even Tony Stark gives her praise in the comics. Saldana brings a grace to her and I am once again quite pleased to have a kick ass heroine in a film surrounded by male heroes. Though seriously Marvel where is my Carol Danvers film already? Finally Drax the Destroyer finishes out the group and he too is a welcome addition. While Quill constantly throws out snark, pop culture references, and metaphors Drax is the silent type. He doesn’t understand metaphors and the concept of tact. But you still like him. As I said you love the whole group.

The weakness, I think, in the film comes from the villains. I love Karen Gillan, but beyond looking amazing Nebula is fairly one dimensional. As are the rest of the villains. Again, I love Lee Pace, but Ronan is so cookie cutter compared to the rest of the vivid characters in the film. He’s definitely better than other Marvel villains (Malekith for example), but I wanted so much more. Thanos looks amazing and even his brief appearance makes me highly excited for an Infinity Gauntlet storyline. I was just a little underwhelmed by the villains is all.

And there are changes from the comic books. Yondu is certainly different and yet I like Rooker’s version of him. It works in the film. There is so much to be thrilled with this film. I look forward to meeting J’Son if we ever get that far and perhaps seeing a certain starlet in a Planet Hulk film? The film is gorgeous. Visually I dig all of the colors from Gamora’s green hued skin to the gorgeous colors of outer space. This is not a washed out film by any means and I truly loved watching it all. Finally, the soundtrack is wonderful. Full of 80’s pop songs it completely complimented the film.

Rent/Cinema? Cinema. I haven’t laughed this much since the Lego Movie and it is a welcome addition to the Marvel Universe. Shame it will be another couple of years until I get the next one.

4/4 popcorns

Saturday, August 9, 2014

GAMER GIRL WEEKENDS: Destiny Beta

It’s been a bit since the Destiny Beta ended, but E and I certainly had fun while it lasted. We played it a bit on the PS3 and then again on our Xbox Ones. September 9th’s launch date for the actual game approaches quicker than I expected, but such is the nature of summer. So what did I think?

While not highly customizable I was able to choose a female character with race options of human, awoken, and exo (robotic like). I could choose a hairstyle, skin, eye, and hair color as well as markings. I chose the Awoken who kind of remind me of Mass Effect’s Asari with the skin palatte of pastels. They also have glowing eyes, so I went all Dune style and chose some glowing blue eyes. I was satisfied with my character though you really only see what she looks like in the Tower, anywhere else she is covered in her armor.

There are three classes: Hunter, Warlock, and Titan. I chose Warlock as I am totally into the space magic thing. E played all three classes, but I did not have a chance to play the beta nearly as much as he did. Warlocks specialize in combining tech magic with the weapons. They wear long coats and have an arm band on their upper left arm (that is my customization option beyond the armor…other people get capes and such that you can noticeably see a change in…sigh). The super ability was a Nova bomb which you sling at your enemies and disintegrate them (whee). Now while there are three classes to choose from it is interesting that they aren’t your typical classes such as Healer, Tank, and so forth. As far as I know there don’t appear to be any more classes that will be available for launch, but perhaps there will be later (such as in Mass Effect multi).

Once I made my character and went through the tutorial (by the way you need to have the ability to skip scenes especially if you decide to replay with a different class) there are a few different modes of the game. Story mode is self-explanatory and furthers the overall story of the game. It can still be played with two other players though they are not necessary for its completion. I didn’t know what to make of the story as it capped at Level 5 for the Beta and I was unable to get a real sense of what was happening. Like most story modes you have a boss battle at the end of each chapter. Strike mode pairs you with two other players either of your own choosing or through a matchmaking process. There are three waves of enemies, each more difficult than the previous. Explore mode allowed you to go find mission markers and complete small missions. It is essentially grind mode, but there were special events that occurred that were kind of nice. In this aspect it reminded me of Defiance a bit and what things I liked about that game (though ultimately E and I did not play it together as he has a Japanese xbox and so they were putting him on a server on the other side of the world) where certain mission required a hell of a lot of strangers gathering together for a common battle. I do hope there will be more of these ‘events’ and ones that may require larger numbers of people and some strategy. Finally there was the Crucible which is pvp which I personally am not into all that much (I prefer Mass Effect’s co-op far more), but we will see as I don’t mind CoD when playing with friends (but rarely feel the need to go in and play by myself).

We spent a lot of time either doing Strike Mode (easier to level up and more of a challenge) or Exploring (the special events happened in this mode as I said earlier, plus it was fun just to explore as the game is quite pretty).

The Good.
The loot system is great. Almost everything except is ammo is pretty rare so you don’t fill up your inventory with stuff you won’t use really quickly. Weapons and armor can either be standard (White), uncommon (Green), rare (Blue), or legendary (Purple). I managed to end up with a couple of blue items but they were all above my level cap of 8 and so I was unable to use them in the beta. Your gear can also level up so you tend to stick with individual weapons for longer. You don’t fight over loot and who gets what which is nice.

The AI is great. Perfect no, but I do like that there is a little strategy with them. Fallen would respond to where my shots came from (though I could stealthy move away from that spot and snipe them elsewhere) and would regroup and look for cover. They would search for me as well so I couldn’t just bank on hiding and hoping they would go away (such as sitting outside of a cave waiting for my health to regenerate). However, like most AI they did have their ‘Doh’ moments. But overall I liked it.

This game really is gorgeous. In fact I wouldn’t mind having some of the background scenery as desktops. I look forward to exploring more worlds.

The Meh.
The UI is a bit weird, seemingly made for PC instead of game consoles where you have to hover over areas and then click on them with your controller (as you would a mouse). Seems like an odd choice since as far as I know there is no move for it to be a PC game right now.

How big is the game? I know with the Beta we only had a few areas to choose from, but I wonder how much replay value there is. I am not sure how many planets or other solar system stops there are and how many story levels are on each…I guess we will see.

The Bad.
I love you Peter Dinklage, but I will have to pass on your voice acting. It’s not that your voice isn’t great or that you are a bad actor because I have many favorites that would say otherwise (The Last Station), but you don’t sound like AI. For my ghost I am expecting Terence Stamp, Paul Bettany, or even Bill Nighy’s Speaker. It’s the lilt of their voice. Unless of course your Ghost turns out to be something different than AI.

For a social game, it kind of lacks the social aspect. While I appreciate wanting to keep things nice for all involved, not being able to chat with your new friends at the Tower didn’t stop the trolls. I still had guys greeting me by crouching in front of my lady character (really? *sigh*) or doing the typical follow you around and get in your face whenever they are able. This is going to happen and as a gamer with a very lady moniker who plays lady characters whenever she can it doesn’t surprise me. I’m used to it.

What does surprise me is how limited I am to making new friends. With Mass Effect and even CoD, I have made a lot of friends I game with just by meeting them in the lobby or finding them on my team and having a kick ass match with them. But it’s also nice to be able to point out things such as loot in this cave, or I’m going to go and try and take out this level 20 boss, anyone want to join me in the free roam levels and as of right now I can’t do that unless you are already part of my fireteam. I found the lack of social happiness particularly annoying when everyone is at the Tower, the seemingly big social place for the game. Other than kicking around a beach ball or soccer ball, having a dance party, or playing some leap frog that is about it. I couldn’t in game message anyone or see if they wanted to go head off on adventures.

I also want my team of four. This is what I am used to. And yes I already have my team of four. Rawr. This what gamers are used to in recent years when it comes to multiplayer experiences (Borderlands 2 for example) and what we have come to expect for future games as well (the new Assassin’s Creed).

The Verdict.
Whoo hoo, a game E and I can play together with our friends. Yes it’s a FPS meets dungeon crawler without the witty snark, but I am okay with that. Is it perfect…no. But few games are. It is a gorgeous game that I enjoyed playing for a few days and found myself missing when the beta ends so that has to say something. I think it has potential like many games coming out this Fall. We will see how the final version turns out, but I will at least be buying it in September.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown: A Review

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
Written by: Holly Black
Paperback: 419 pages
Publisher: Little Brown Books
Language: English
September 2013
Genre: Young Adult /Horror/Vampires

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.


+++++++++++++

How do you like your vampires? Do you like them Nosferatu style? Or do you prefer your vampires a little sexier like something out of True Blood or The Vampire Diaries. I have always been a vampire fan from the tales of the Leanansidhe to more recent lore. It’s an odd thing as I dig the whole sexy vampire schtick and all of the not so disguised innuendos, but I also love my vampires scary. I want them to be apex predators. So as much as I love vampires from the Kate Daniels books where they are controlled by necromancers, smexy things such as Spike and Angel, or Tom Hiddleston in The Only Lovers Left Alive, I also love the Strain, 30 Days of Night, and Near Dark.

The vampires in The Coldest Girl in Coldtown hover somewhere between the scary predator and the smexy sultry monster. Tana used to be enamored with vampires like everyone else. But they were myth. They weren’t scary. They were number counting muppets and sold cereal. Sexy rockers and cartoon villains. They weren’t real. The joke was on humanity.

Caspar Morales changed everything when he decided to stop hiding in the shadows and seducing…and infecting his way across the country. By the time the ancients caught up with him he’d created hundreds of new vampires and they didn’t understand anything. You see when you are bitten you go Cold. Sometimes you don’t know for 48 hours, but if you are truly infected the thirst for blood is overpowering. You can beat the infection if you are determined. It just means avoiding drinking blood for 88 days. If you taste even a sip, its done. Game over. And three months is a very, very long time when you are Cold.

So after the vampire explosion happened, the US created Coldtowns in an attempt to control the spread of the infection. If you are a vampire, you are thrown into a Coldtown. And if you’re human or potentially infected, the same deal applies. So what happens if you beat the Cold? That’s the thing. You may not need permission from your parents to enter a Coldtown and can enter on your own volition if you are so determined, but you cannot leave unless you own a marker and haven’t turned. Markers cost money. A lot of money. The easiest way to earn a marker is to become a hunter and turn in a vampire. But again, that’s rare.

Coldtowns these days almost seem glamourous. Broadcast feeds featuring vampire celebrities certainly make life in a Coldtown look like one big party. Immortality looks attractive. But Tana knows better. She knows first-hand what being Cold can do to a person. She has the scars to prove it from when her mother tried to wait out the infection in the basement. Tana wanted to help. Tana didn’t understand. She knows it is all just hype. So how does Tana find herself in a Coldtown?

The morning after a lock in party with with all of her classmates, Tana wakes up in a bathtub. She is not exactly a stranger to the party hard and wake up a bit dazed and in a strange place. She is not, however, familiar with leaving the bathroom and finding everyone dead. She is not the only survivor. Her annoying yet endearing ex has been bitten and left to go Cold tied to one side of the bed while a vampire is chained to the other side just out of reach. Putting on her white hat she saves them both, promising to have her breakdown later when she has time. It’s a race against time to save the three of them which means going to the one place she has no desire to enter: Coldtown.

Things I loved: I first read about Coldtown in Holly Black’s short story anthology the Poison Eaters when we meet a young woman named Matilda. Vampire lore has horror in it again even as a majority of the world continues to romanticize them. That is what I really love about the book is losing the romanticism and seeing what vampires really are. There is blood. There is gore. There is death. There is also never a moment that I don’t believe that Gavriel is a predator as much as I like him.

The real strength the story gets is from Tana herself. She is an extremely relatable and likable protagonist. She has flaws and weaknesses, but she is also has an incredible strength. She has been through a lot from her mother to loving Aidan who couldn’t seem to keep his hands off other girls and boys while they were together. She recognizes he is a jerk, but she still feels like she needs to protect him as she still cares for him in her own way. She is a survivor and a savior (though sometimes saves out of desperation and fear rather than courage), a sister, a daughter, and extremely loyal to her friends. She saw behind the curtain long before most and despite being a teenager has aged far quicker than her peers. She is trying to make peace with her past and the mistakes she has made.

Gavriel is doing the same thing. And while I hate the centuries old vampire falling for the teenager schtick, this romance made sense to me. While not the focus of the story overall, there is a hint of romance here and once I enjoyed. No one has saved Gavriel before, but Tana did. She has no illusions of who and what he is, but she is attracted to him anyway. Of course Tana is not without her own darkness. But I think it is her strength, her mercy, and her loyalty which draws him ever closer to her. Sure they fall for one another rather quickly, but they also go through some intense shit together.

The Coldtown itself is also a great character. From the outside it looks like a never ending party full of gothy glamour and immortality. The internet feeds document the lives of the infamous vampires, the vampire hunters that bring them to the Coldtowns in the first place, and the romanticism of promised immortality. It’s a great little commentary about truth and propaganda, of how we turn the monstrous into something seductive. There are a lot of lies we tell ourselves about the world. In Tana’s world the Coldtown is one of the biggest lies. They don’t tell you that once you enter you are prey, that your party mansion may not have running water, that you barter for rat on a stick, that the Coldtown is little more than a Shanty town. But once you are in, how do you get out? And does the government really want you to get out after all the vampires need to eat somehow or they stop being complacent about being herded into Coldtowns.

Midnight and Winter have their own delusions about Coldtown. When Tana meets up with them all they want is to become part of the fantasy, vampire twins living a life of luxury. They are in love with death and are prepared to document it all for the masses on their blog. But even when the horrific happens Midnight is still determined to document it, put a spin on it. Why?

I actually enjoyed the narrative. While Tana is ultimately the voice of the novel, there are chapters that contain Gavriel’s backstory, blog posts, and even Tana’s sister viewpoints. Together they expand the universe. It was a great way to add information and flesh things out without having a boring info dump.

Finally, I am going to return to the clever balance Black walks during her novel. There is the romanticism of a lot of things from relationships to vampires. Holly cleverly contrasts it with parting the delusion curtain and reminding us of the darker sides, of the truth behind the lies. Quite often this involves death, torture, fear, manipulation, and suicide. There is love and there is loathing, excess and poverty. There are lot of lies we tell ourselves about the world when we are teenagers, hell even as adults. It’s easier that way. We romanticize a lot, turn our fears, our regrets into something else entirely. We make excuses. We wax poetic. And then we remember or discover the truth. It’s a great theme.

Things I didn’t love so much: It was too short and I want more. That’s about it.

Buy or Borrow: Buy. It’s original and full of adventure, vampires, a hint of romance, and one hell of a heroine. Great book.

Part of: Stand alone (but could be the start of a beautiful series?)

Also Recommended: Try Sunshine by Robin McKinley which is one of my favorite vampire novels. I would also recommend Holly Black’s other series such as the Modern Faerie Tale series. Also to read more about Coldtown check out Holly Black’s short story collection The Poison Eaters.

4 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks