Review: Sunshine by Robin McKinley

sunshine The first time I read Sunshine was 10 years ago right after the release of Breaking Dawn. Let’s just say that Breaking Dawn left a lot to be desired.  I can’t remember if it was Kate who suggested Sunshine or if it was our friend Elizabeth but it was one of those “read this if you want to read a good vampire novel after a really bad one”.  I did and it is.  I loved it as much now as I did back then.  It was just as suspenseful, mysterious, funny and kind of sexy even if there isn’t much of a romance going on.  Rae “Sunshine” Seddon is as normal as one can be living in New Arcadia after the Voodoo Wars.  She makes the best cinnamon rolls at Charlie’s Coffeeshop.  Her whole life revolves around the coffeeshop.  Things change when she decides to take a drive out to the lake and is kidnapped by Vampires and is sucked into an old school feud between two very old and very different vampires.  She also discovers that she isn’t so normal after all.  She happens to be the daughter of a powerful sorcerer and has powers of her own.  When she saves herself and Constantine with her sunshine power her life is turned upside down.  She deals with it pretty well with a lot of dark humor and a great supporting cast.  Constantine is everything that Edward is not.  He doesn’t try to pretend he’s anything that he isn’t.  He’s considerate and thoughtful.  Many times he could have taken advantage of Sunshine but doesn’t.  In the end he realizes that he needs her as much as she needs him.  As for their relationship status, who knows.  There is definitely a connection between them.  It’s more than just the bond from healing each other but also surviving multiple traumatic events.  They are definitely two friends who have a deep respect for each other and continue to challenge each other.  Let’s go back to Sunshine.  In someways it’s unfair to compare her to Bella because Sunshine is an adult and Bella is not.  Sunshine has more life experience that when she makes decisions she knows how much is going to effect her and the people she cares about.  She also sees that she is an impossible situation that doesn’t give her any good choices to choose from.  She is self aware to know herself but also what is going on around her.  While Constantine does take up a lot of time and thinking he doesn’t become the center of her life.  She keeps her family and friends close and many of them actually help her to understand what is going on and give her the tools to defeat the evil vampire.  Her support system is truly key. Not just to help her through killing vampires but also help her heal from her traumatic experience too.  I think that’s important part of the story.  Constantine is a powerful vampire but he couldn’t take on The Evil Vampire on his own.  He needed Sunshine.  Sunshine would not been able to deal with what happened to her without the support of her stepfather, Charlie, her boyfriend Mel, Her Mom, Her landlady, Yolande, her friend Aimil, her other friends and SOF agents, Pat, Jesse and Theo.  Whether or not they knew it, they all played a roll in defeating The Evil Vampire and keeping Constantine and Sunshine alive.  It was a group effort but also a reminder that no matter what is going on in your life.  You are never truly alone.  So yes, Sunshine is a great vampire novel and deserves more props.

Review: Dark Guardian by Christine Feehan

The Carpathians are an immortal race that live off blood, like vampires.  Except, they’re not the undead.  They have souls.  The males lose all emotion and the ability to see color until they find their life mates who restore these to them.  They’re bonded forever.  
I should have stopped reading this book at the prologue and when I heard this explanation and thought, “NOPE!”  
I get that I might not be the audience for mainstream romance.  And, I get that media lets us explore situations and relationships that my interest us, intrigue us, turn us on, or whatever but that we don’t and shouldn’t do in real life.  I get that novels, not just romance novels, are an escape.  I get all of that.  
But, I can’t even think of an appropriate list of swear words to describe how terrible this novel was.  Seriously.  It was so bad that I can’t even swear at it.  
But, I can tell you what I didn’t like about it and why.

Massive Spoilers Ahead!

First, of course, was this idea that men (well, Carpathian men) are emotionless monsters that women have to save.  Nope.  Feelings are a human thing.  We all have amygdalas and emotional centers in our brains and anything that continues to perpetuate the stereotype that women are the ones that feel and men aren’t harms women, harms men, harms us all.  Second, after introducing our immortal badass vampire hunting Carpathian dudebro we’re introduced to Jaxon the heroine by looking into her life at ages 5, 10, 15, adulthood.  Jax was raised on a military base by her Mother (who wasn’t super maternal) and her father, a Navy Seal, and his Seal buddies were very involved in her life.  Until her Dad died and her Mom married his Seal buddy who then turned into an abusive pyscho and the descriptions were awful.  Psycho Step Dad then stalks our fair Jax and torments her by hurting people she loves.  Oh, but before we get there we are treated to these flashbacks where young Jax tells adults that her Step Dad is abusive and no one believes her.  I thought there was mandatory reporting of these sorts of things?  Like, if a kid tells her teacher that her Dad hits her Mom that the teacher had to tell the school and get Child Welfare involved?  Anyway, Jax grows up into an emotionally stunted police officer who has to keep everyone at arms length because Psycho Step Dad might be watching.  (At least that was a fun twist:  for once the psycho step parent wasn’t the mother.)  Then, her Carpathian dudebro inserts himself into her life, removes her from her friends and chosen family, disregards her concerns, commands her to stay in the house in the name of her safety (and gets violently upset when she disregards his commands and asserts her own autonomy), and initiates the life mate binding process without her consent and then completes it without ever explaining anything to her.  Being stalked by a Navy Seal is terrible.  Being swept up by an immortal who needs you to maintain his emotional life for him is also terrible.  
And, folks, I didn’t even get to the end.  I got the completion of the binding ritual and she started freaking out and Carpathian dudebro started mansplaining how they were meant for each other and she just needs to roll with the (irreversible) changes and I was like:
  

So, the only good choice with this book is to just not pick it up.  0/10.  Do not recommend.

I checked this book out from the Buffalo and Erie County Public Libraries.

Review: Marked by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

In Zoey Redbird’s world, humans are made into vampyres after they are chosen by the Goddess Nyx. They leave their families and go to live at the local House of Night which is a training ground/school for fledgling vampyres. But, that’s just background noise because she has to deal with whatever her best friend is babbling about, and her ex-almost boyfriend, and her mother’s new husband who is a elder in the People of Faith and who has taken over her mother’s life (and subsequently destroyed her relationship with her Mom.)

Did I say it was background noise? I meant it was exposition. Zoey Redbird is marked in the first chapter and has to go to vampyre school. She is visited in a dream by Nyx and she is asked to be the Goddess’s very own eyes and ears in the school. Talk about responsibility.

The rest of the book is taken up with typical school story narrative. People are terrible and fledgling vampyres don’t buck that trend. There are mean girls, there are the cool kids, there are the people you are lucky enough to have as friends. And, there is a mystery of dead or maybe not-so-dead fledglings. Zoey has to navigate the halls of the school and investigate the mystery.

This is the first book in the series, and as discussed in my Saturday Reads I liked Zoey Redbird very much. The second half of the book involved a lot of description of ritual, and while I liked that, it felt a lot using non-Christian cultural practices as a way to make the vampyre world seem exotic and interesting and special instead of pushing the plot forward by character development or by divulging more about the mystery. And, that’s lazy at best and appropriative at worst. Also, a lot of the references felt really dated or forced. Zoey and her friends make a lot of pop culture references.

Even with the low points, I liked the characters and I’ll probably read at least the next one in the series.