Book Review: Peeps by Scott Westerfeld

book cover for peeps
Click here for the Amazon page.

Overall Rating: 3 stars (Liked It)

When I first saw this on the shelf and read the summary on the back, I couldn’t help but think, “Ooooh! Vampires meets Scott Pilgrim!”

And so, naturally, I picked it up.

Cal is a carrier of a parasite which infected all of his ex-girlfriends. They have all become vampires, parasite-positives, or “Peeps” for short. Cal may just be a carrier, but he’s got the strength, the night-vision, the craving for meat, and the horniness of a Peep. After catching all of his ex-girlfriends for the Night Watch, he is charged with finding the girl who infected him in the first place.

Cal is also a biology major, and just a little bit nerdy. Between chapters he gives mini-biology lessons on parasites, which are usually quite entertaining, and a little icky. He makes vampires scary in a completely different way, by relating them to intestinal worms.

The book doesn’t earn one of the highest ratings from me, but it was very entertaining and I read it in two sittings. I appreciated that, while sex is a common theme to the story, it successfully avoided being explicit, or in making me tired of the subject (which generally happens very quickly for me). It also avoids being gushy, which seems to be the weakness of most vampire stories, especially those marketed to teens.

So the book earned three stars simply because when I post this up on Goodreads, I won’t be able to give it three-and-four quarters, and I don’t quite feel like it earned an even four. Even so, if it sounds like something that’s up your alley, I highly recommend it as a fun read and an interestingly original take on teen-vampire stories.

 

Book Review: Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

cover image for Behemoth
Click here for the Amazon page

Overall Rating: 5 stars (Loved It!)

Behemoth is Book 2 of the Leviathan Trilogy.

Behemoth picks up on a cheerful front with Aleksandyr giving Daryn his (her) first fencing lesson. I liked that the book had me laughing from page 1, and looking forward to the kind of high-adventure I’ve come to expect from the series. The fabricated beasts and large, clunky diesel engines give the world a distinct flavor that I love returning to. It’s a feeling that I hadn’t realized I’d missed, and one only a fantastic series can provide.

One of the things I love about this series is the real history we are getting, attached to a fantastical world of flying whale-ships and steam-punk mechas. Westerfeld ends each installment with an afterword that explains the differences between what happened in World War I and his alternate-history take. I really appreciate that he clarifies the changes he made for the purpose of fiction.

This has been fascinating to me, since honestly I don’t know much about World War I. It seems like history class, the discovery channel, and the book shelves are all preoccupied with World War II, and the two are very different. I love how Westerfeld conveys a complex mixture of thoughts and beliefs by Europeans at that time, giving readers the beginnings of a broad outlook which we can apply to our study, if we so desire to learn more about the war.

If you’ve read any of Westerfeld’s other books (I read Peeps after this one, and am getting ready to start on the Pretties), you might come to expect a certain sexual tension from his them. However, the Leviathan series reads a little more innocently, like a higher-aged middle-grade book.

I’ve had a few favorites so far, with “I Don’t Want to Kill You” being my favorite read of the year, and “The Graveyard Book” becoming one of my favorite reads of all-time. This has become one of my favorite series, starting with Leviathan in January and with Goliath (the last installment of the series) coming out on September 20th.

Book Review of I Don’t Want to Kill You by Dan Wells

image of book cover
Click here for the Amazon page

Overall Rating: 5 stars (Loved It!)

Genre – Thriller/Horror/Supernatural, Adult and Young Adult

While still following the Dan Wells tradition of being disturbing, thrilling, fast-paced and funny all at the same time, this book was possibly the most beautiful thing I have read this year. You may wonder how vivid scenes of embalming can be juxtaposed with anything that might be considered “beautiful”; it’s all in the journey.

I Don’t Want to Kill You was a book well worth waiting for. The series began with I am Not a Serial Killer, followed by Mr. Monster. The book series begins with a bang, and gets better as it goes. Although I try to keep spoilers out of my reviews, if you haven’t read the other two books it may be hard not to spoil the endings of the first two books; fair warning.

John Cleaver is a 15-year old sociopath who is convinced he will become a serial killer, but he doesn’t want to. He develops a list of rules designed to keep others safe, and himself out of trouble.

Character

John Cleaver is back, keeping a lookout for the demon he invited into town at the end of Mr. Monster. In this book he experiences a lot of growth, continuing the inner struggle of wondering what he will eventually become. John is also dating, dealing with the complexities of relationships and going to school dances. Other characters are written very well, and a few of them are incredibly lovable.

Story

The third addition of the series takes more time to explore other aspects of life, such as dating, while tracking this book’s killer. This means the book slowed down a bit more than the others did in places, which was a good thing, but I don’t know how to tell you why without giving spoilers.

Speed

I read this book in one day, two sittings. The book stays true to the tradition it set in book 1, which I also read in two sittings. Mr. Monster I read in one sitting, firstly because it was as captivating as the others, but also because I had more time that day. This book delivers the entire story in a rush, leaving you to take time to digest it all after you are finished.

Content

This book’s title may scare some parents, but don’t let that deter you. As a horror novel, sometimes the scenes can get vividly graphic or disturbing. However, the author keeps the content at a PG-13 level. The scenes with corpses and embalming are very detailed, which is part of the mood-setting for the entire series. I felt the content of the book was handled very well for Young Adults.

Age Recommended: 14 and up.

Language: Nothing memorable.

Violence: Yes, action sequences and horrific/thrilling/death scenes.

Sex: No. The closest you will encounter is vague references to sex appeal (Such as John following his rule not to look at girls’ chests.)



Little Brother: Don’t Trust Anyone Over 25

cover of little brother
Amazon Page for Little Brother

This book was absolutely fantastic. I couldn’t put it down, to my own detriment because I had to face the next school day with two hours’ sleep. But if there’s any reason to have to face a full day of work with no sleep, it’s a book this good.

The protagonist is Malcolm (handle: w1n5t0n), a young man who might have been my best friend in high school; he knows how to get around the rules. He’s an expert on making High School Life more bearable, from using the middle stalls in the bathroom, mirror programs to get around the school’s firewall, and rocks in his shoes to fool the school’s gait-recognition cameras.

He’s all about gadgets, software, and games. Which is why he and his friends ditched school that day, to find the next major clue for Harajuku Fun Madness – an ARG (Alternate Reality Game). Caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, the four teenagers were taken to a secret location and imprisoned by the Department of Homeland Security.

When Malcolm was released, he found his city taken over by intrusive surveillance laws. Even more horrifying – his childhood friend never made it out of the DHS’s secret prison. Unable to tell anyone about what happened, Malcolm began a project to take down the DHS himself.

This book is an addictive, thrilling tale of how one teenage hacker can make a difference. While there may be some deep political messages or connotations that could be extrapolated from the story’s plot, it never felt preachy to me. This story was accessible, using techno-terms that many young people can identify with. Young People… Wow, I must be getting old.

And according to what happens in Little Brother, I am – “Don’t trust anyone over 25” is the motto, and sorry to say, it’s too late for me.

CONTENT WARNING – I usually review children’s literature, and as this is a YA novel, which is like the literature equivalent of being rated PG-13. Some harsh language and drug and sex references are present.

Steampunk and Leviathan

Just a few months ago, I found myself lamenting that Steam Punk was not considered a valid genre for novel publishing. I held on to a hope that this, the genre where I first cracked my teeth on Role-Playing Games and Anime, would make a move into literature, and that I might be a part of it.

Oh, little did I know.

cover for leviathan
Amazon Page for Leviathan


Thing is, Steam Punk IS publishing. Take as a recent example Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, my new #1 book of the year. It’s an alternative history steampunk novel in which the French and British are called “Darwinists”, fabricating war machines out of genetically engineered animals. The Germans and Soviets, called “Clankers”, go to war with big, loud, armored walking machines.

This is a book for young adults, and so the two main protagonists are adolescents – one being the exiled son of the Austrian Archduke, the other a girl posing as a boy so she can join the British Air Force.

And how would a book taking place in an alternate 1920’s be complete without some black-and-white illustrations? Without a doubt, they add a lot to the experience, which makes me wonder why we gave up illustrations in the first place. They didn’t used to be a “kids-books-only” thing.

Because it is January, I can’t guarantee that Leviathan will stay at the top of the charts, but I will guarantee it as a fun read if you’re looking for some steampunk to enjoy.