Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Some Whimsical About Me-Ness

I finished a book last night (yay!), and I do need to blog about it. Unfortunately, I'm not in the mood right now and everyone will have to wait. So for now, please enjoy some me-ness in the form of my dog:

This is Blackie. I first had the pleasure of meeting him in November of 2003, when I went to a local no-kill shelter with a friend to play with some dogs. My childhood dog Rusty had passed away in September, and I was just needing a dog fix. The very first kennel in the shelter held this cute little black mutt. He barked and barked, but the second I let myself into his kennel to pet him he calmed down. He jumped up and put his front paws on my arm, but it wasn't the typical dog reaction of "OMGOMGILOVEYOUSTRANGEPERSONSOIWANNAKNOCKYOUOVERI'MSOEXCITED!" He was gentle and utterly adorable. Unfortunately, I was in college, broke beyond my wildest dreams, and I absolutely could not afford a dog. But cute little Blackie stayed on my mind.

A few months later I decided to go to the same shelter and take a dog out for a day. They had a great program where people could come by and basically have a dog for a day, and it was win-win because not only could we get in some awesome doggy time, but the dogs could get out and do something fun. The girl at the shelter asked me if I had any particular dog in mind, and while I did (BLACKIE!!!), I didn't want to pass up another dog that hadn't had a chance to go for an outing in a while or something. So I told her to tell me which dogs hadn't been chosen in the longest time, and I would take one of those. She immediately replied, "Blackie really needs a day out." Fate, much?

With my pockets loaded up with dog treats, I took Blackie out to the local university campus, and we wandered around. As we did so, the cute little booger discovered the treats and kept trying to get his nose into my jacket pockets. I was sold, then and there. We then headed over to a friend's apartment, where we hung outside for a little while. I reluctantly took Blackie back to the shelter and wished more than ever that I could have a dog.

I took Blackie out one more time after that, and he was always on my mind (love at first sight, I'm tellin' ya!). Finally, I was in a good enough financial situation that I could afford him, and so on June 1, 2004 he left the shelter after a nine-month stay and became MINE. Mwahaha!

This dog is seriously awesome. I love him so much, as does his daddy (who was gracious enough to take not only me, but the dog as well). From the look on his face when I gave him his toys on day one, or watching him engaging in an epic battle of wills as a dog trainer was forcing him to try and lay down, or the day he passed his Canine Good Citizen class (I couldn't have been prouder if he was my real human kid), each day he makes me laugh and smile. I get him, and he gets me. It's a good feeling.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Confession: I am wearing Wranglers

Obviously, this has NO relation whatsoever to any kind of book (though I admit it could make a pretty awesome title.. ooh, ideas!). However, I felt it necessary to mention.

Here's the scoop: I am from Chicago. I lived, ate, and breathed Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle, Aeropostale, and Nordstrom in high school. Heck, I even worked at two of the aforementioned places. I got to Oklahoma for college, and despite the culture shock I refused to give up my big city jeans. There would be nothing but the approved brands for this butt!

And then Lucky Brand came into the picture. Oh, Lucky Brand, I couldn't afford you on my meager part-time retail wages in high school, but with college graduation came a real job which resulted with me receiving a real crappy paycheck. Suddenly you were a lot more attainable, and I rejoiced in your awesomeness... until you started falling apart after so many wears just like every other pair of jeans in the world does. And you fell apart at approximately the same rate as Levi's fall apart, and suddenly I realized you needed to stop invading my closet so frequently because Levi's were approximately $70 cheaper.

With marriage came more practicality. No longer needing to impress, I instead went for comfort. Yes, I do want to look decent. I cringe at the thought of sweat pants and a t-shirt everyday (not that there is anything wrong with this some days!). But at the sacrifice of my bank account? No. And that's where the current story comes into play.

Someone gave my husband a pair of jeans for me. For free. They were Wranglers, and it made me want to shrivel up inside because I do not wear Wranglers. But they fit, and not being one to pass up free jeans, I accepted graciously. However, I have been highly skeptical of the fact that they're freaking Wranglers!!! Alas, they are about as comfortable as a pair of tight jeans can get, and they even come with a stretchy waistband, which I admittedly find enthralling. I think all jeans need stretchy waistbands.

And so, Katie is wearing Wranglers today. Tomorrow will be the pearl snap button shirt, snakeskin boots, and maybe a bolo tie for good measure. Sigh. So long, Chi-Town.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

And because Julie rules.. another award

It's Award Day!

One of my favorite bloggers (who I haven't sent an award to because I always see she already has them from others!) gave me this one. Please follow her blog Book Hooked if you don't already because she rules. Thank you Julie!

People who deserve this award:
Mrs. Messi's Musings
My Overly Ambitious Attempt at 101 in 1001 (Ebonie)
Chic Fit Geek

Blog Award: You're Going Places, Baby

Thanks to Chic Fit Geek for this award! I love blog awards because it makes me feel like someone actually bothers to read the crap I post! :)

The rules:
1. Tell the blogging world where you want to be in ten years.
2. Pass this on to some blog buddies. (I think technically you're supposed to do ten, but I'm going to be lazy and do less)

I can totally swing this!

My big dream for ten years from now is to be able to write for a living. I want to get published and write novels, letting all these ideas careening through my head come to fruition so that I can give them to the rest of the world while supporting my family doing it. I think I would be really happy doing this.

Now, as for who is deserving of this award is a different matter! I follow a lot of different blogs that are all wonderful, so it will be hard to choose my favorites. But a sampling, and in no particular order (okay, maybe alphabetical)..

1. Angel - An Everyday Angel
2. Angie - Angie Eats Peace
3. Tameka - Because Perfection is Boring
4. Crystal - Crystal Clear Reading
5. Ashley - Great Books and Fresh Coffee
6. Jen - My Brain's Comfort Food
7. Leah - My Life: Uncensored
8. Heather - See Heather Write
9. Melissa - The Kitchen Canister

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Writing - Puzzling out the Pieces

I'm writing a novel.

There, I said it. A few select people are aware of this, and I even recently joined a writing group that has really helped me to plow through the hard parts of the process. But the majority of the people in my life have absolutely no idea I'm doing this. Part of the reason is that I'm still in my rough draft phase, and I don't want anyone to see my work yet. Some of it sucks, some of it makes no sense, and some of it leads nowhere. I want to have a chance to polish things up first once I've completed version one.

Another reason I'm not very forthcoming about this fact is that I'm not ready to answer those inevitable questions about what it's about or who the main characters are. I think part of this is a little nagging sense of self-doubt. I love my story, but I'm not quite ready to hear that someone else doesn't. This is a piece of myself that I want to show to the world someday, but that time has not yet come because the manuscript is far from complete, let alone up to my high standards.

Last night I hit 28,000 words, and even though it seems impressive it really means I haven't even cracked the halfway point yet. Part of the fun of this process is that I don't know exactly where things are going to end up. I know how I want them to end, but this could easily change at any time. New ideas keep popping up in my head, whether a new character or a new direction that things can take. I know this isn't the way many writers do things. I know many have a detailed outline or some other process they go through before actually sitting down and tapping out the novel on their computer. But I started with a general description. I keep a separate document with information I may need later: Facts, character names, scene ideas that I think would be fun, etc.

Sometimes I wonder if an outline would have been better. For example, last night I was completely stuck. I had finished one scene and was ready to start the next, which I had thoroughly fleshed out in my mind already. The only problem is that there was a small in-between part that would segue me into the next scene that I could not figure out. Nothing I thought of made sense, and unfortunately this little in-betweener wasn't something I could just gloss over for right now. Even though it was only a few paragraphs, that little piece would carve out the future of several important supporting characters. I was stumped, and admittedly I was completely frustrated with myself for having gotten this far before realizing that I had absolutely no clue what to do. I should have had an outline because this would have been a non-issue. I could have just consulted my outline, tossed it into the story, and I would have been done with it rather than spending a good two hours stewing as I tried to toss in a few sentences here and there.

In my head I tested out various scenarios. What if this happened, and then from there I went here? Or what if that happened? If that happened, I couldn't go there. And as I did all this, it occurred to me that my writing process is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. I start by finding those corner pieces because they're easy, and they're incredibly important if you plan on actually completing the puzzle. From there the edges are hunted out, and I slowly begin to put them together to create a frame. But the rest is a mystery. Sometimes I have to take several pieces and try fitting them together to see if they fit or try fitting one piece to the frame of the puzzle. Sometimes it works and snaps into place, but sometimes it's all wrong and I need to try again.

I did end up finding a solution I liked for my in-betweener, and once that happened I had no problems forging ahead and completing that next scene. I was proud of myself for being able to work through it in a way that pleased me and opened up future possibilities in my story. After this was all said and done, I admit that I contemplated outlining the rest of my novel before continuing on. But some voice inside my head told me to stick with puzzling out the pieces because not knowing everything right now makes me feel like I'm on an adventure. I feel like I'm a reader in a way, where I have an inkling of where things might be going but at any time something could shake things up. It allows me more perspective, which I think will make for a better story in the end. Sure it will require a lot of clean up, but honestly isn't that the way all writing is?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

I had the misfortune (maybe?) of picking up this book just as I was getting back into the swing of things with my novel, a big fat NaNoWriMo '09 failure (but now is looking like an extraordinary non-failure as I've been putting all sorts of effort into it). The point of this is that despite usually flying through books like Hex Hall, I ended up flipping through this one at an unusually slow pace spanning a week.

Sophie Mercer isn't your average 16-year-old girl. She's a witch, and when a love spell meant to help an unpopular classmate goes horribly wrong, she is sent to Hecate Hell (known to students as Hex Hall), a sort of boarding school/reformatory for Prodigium (witch/faerie/shapeshifter) teenagers who risk revealing themselves to the human world. Here she is surrounded by her own kind, and she quickly discovers that even amongst those she is just like she is still... different. On top of it all, her new best friend and roommate is a vampire and thus one of the most hated people in the school, and she quickly makes enemies of the three most powerful witches in the student population while managing to crush on one of their highly unattainable boyfriends. Things get even worse when Sophie learns her new vampire friend is the prime suspect in a student attack the year before, and soon attacks start happening again.

This book is the first of a trilogy, and it is by debut author Rachel Hawkins. I am really happy to report that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I know supernatural young adult lit is very much the "thing" these days, but Hawkins looks at it with a very refreshing a fun point of view. Usually I can say that something in this genre reminds me of another genre (the Harry Potter and Twilight series usually being the ones I'm reminded of), but in this case I have to admit that it doesn't really hail back to anything I have read before. And that is truly refreshing.

The story also has a few twists to it that I wasn't expecting. I can usually see some of these things miles away, so it was exciting to be surprised when things didn't turn out quite the way they initially seemed. In addition, Sophie's voice is just so great that I couldn't help but to smile every other page as I read this book.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Movie: The Princess and the Frog

I am a huge Disney freak in two ways: First, I'm a huge, huge fan of Walt Disney World. I'm a total kid at heart, and this is a place where I can just go crazy and have fun and no one will think the worst of me for it. Second, I totally dig all the old throwback Disney animated films, which means it was a sad day for me when they stopped creating them. But then it was a happy day when I heard they were going "back to their roots" so to speak with The Princess and the Frog.

Now, unfortunately life got in the way around the time this film was released in theatres. I never got to see it. But yesterday it came out on DVD, and so of course I ran to Target during my lunch time, armed with a $10 coupon for the DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack, and snatched it up giddily. I ran back to the office, tore off all the packaging, and sat there staring at it for several hours until the time came that I could finally go home and watch. And go home and watch I did!

One thing I loved about this movie was that it was technically kinda sorta based on a book I read last year: The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker (who is credited as the writer of the story, in fact). The film pretty much only has one major thing in common with the book, and that is the whole girl-kisses-frog-and-turns-into-frog-herself thing. Otherwise, it's very different. But regardless, it was a fun little thing for me to discover.

I also loved that despite having all the makings of a traditional Disney animated film, it was also very unique in its own way. First, there's the whole African American Disney princess thing. And technically, she's not even a "real" princess! Add to this the New Orleans setting, the amazing music, and I was completely hooked. And while I won't give it away to anyone who hasn't seen this movie, but I cried like a giant baby when Ray finally ends up with his Evangeline.

In other words, big thumbs up! I can't wait to be a nerd and watch it again!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Honolulu by Alan Brennert

While I would certainly have never passed up a trip to Hawaii, to be perfectly honest I never had any huge desire to go. I mean, it's a long flight for starters. Second, it's expensive! And third, why go there when I can get a tropical paradise a lot closer in the Caribbean?

But then Alan Brennert and his books came into my life, and now Hawaii has jumped a few places on my "must see" list. His writing is so beautiful, and the scenes he describes are so unique and incredible that I can't help but to want to hop the first plane across the Pacific and see these islands with my own eyes.

Honolulu is the story of Regret, a Korean girl in the early 20th Century whose biggest desire is to get an education. Knowing that her chances of fulfillment are slim in Korea, she signs up as a picture bride for a prosperous Korean man living in Hawaii and travels to the remote islands in search of a better life. But what greets Regret in Hawaii is a violent husband with little money and a habit of drinking away what money he does receive. But from this unfortunate situation, Regret renames herself Jin (Gem in Korean) and along with her fellow picture brides, not only manages to survive this new land of Hawaii but also thrive.

I will admit that Moloka'i will probably forever hold a place in my heart as my favorite Brennert novel. However, that doesn't mean Honolulu was any less amazing. The story was unique and intriguing, and watching Regret transform into Jin was an amazing experience. As with his previous novel, this one also is a beautiful tapestry of fiction and nonfiction, each piece of the puzzle perfectly fitting into the bigger picture and creating something incredible.

Because I love historical novels that so seamlessly blend fact and fiction, I wanted to include some photos of real life people who readers run into in this book. It's always a wonderful treat for me when I finish a book and I can hop online and see what these people really looked like.

Chang Apana

Joe Kahahawai

W. Somerset Maugham (and the real "Sadie Thompson")

Queen Liliuokalani

Monday, March 15, 2010

In My Mailbox

I'm a day late on this post, but I blame it on Daylight Savings Time! In fact, I'm blaming everything on DST today because I can. It's a great scapegoat.

Anyway, In My Mailbox is a feature started on The Story Siren. Here, I will chronicle the books I picked up from the library, bought, etc. this week:

1. Honolulu by Alan Brennert. Since I adored Moloka'i, I figured I'd give this one a try. Review to follow today or tomorrow. (Library)

2. Working at the Ballpark by Tom Jones. I actually just stumbled upon this one while looking for a different book about baseball at the library. I flipped it open, and was eyeballing the table of contents when I saw a name of an old friend in there! So I checked it out, read the portion about said old friend, and promptly returned it. (Library)

3. Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins. I've heard amazing things about this new author, and I can't wait to finish reading this book! (Bookstore purchase)

What I'm waiting on: My prize from a Twitter contest hosted by Maggie Stiefvater. Will post info when I get it in the mail (maybe today?).

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

6,059 pages read and other stats

Since I haven't been reading much the past couple days, I figured this would be a good time to post some fun stats about the books I've read in 2010, and some tidbits about 2009 as well. First, please understand the 2009 total pages might be slightly off--I did my best to get the page count from the specific editions I read, but a few of them I was a bit foggy on just which one I did pick up! Regardless, it's a very close number.

First, total books read as of March 10, 2010: 18
Total pages: 6,059.
Longest book: Blood Promise (Vampire Academy #4) - 503 pages
Shortest book: Voyage on the Great Titanic - 197 pages
Average pages: 336
Book that felt the longest: Before I Fall
Book that felt the shortest: Voyage on the Great Titanic
Favorite books so far this year: Shiver, Some Girls Are, Moloka'i
Best cover artwork: Shiver
Worst cover artwork: Audrey, Wait! and Vampire Academy (I can't stand the girl on the cover)
Book I'd most-likely recommend to my grandma: Moloka'i

Total books read in 2009: 87
Total pages: 33,008
Longest book: The Fiery Cross and A Breath of Snow and Ashes (tied) - 1456 pages
Shortest book: Project Princess (novella) - 64 pages
Average pages: 379
Book that felt the longest: The Fiery Cross
Book that felt the shortest: Project Princess
Favorite books of the year: Click here
Best cover artwork: The Thirteenth Tale
Worst cover artwork: The Princess Diaries (the covers did get better later in the series)
Book I'd most-likely recommend to my grandma: The Book Thief and Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (both of which I did recommend to her)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sometimes you just need a break..

No book updates today. I'm contemplating rereading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets for the umpteenth time, but I'm not sure yet. I did put Honolulu by Alan Brennert on hold at the library earlier today, so hopefully it will come in sometime this week.

I'm really, really annoyed today though. I've had it rough the past few weeks, and it's been wearing me down quite a bit. I don't know when exactly things will get better, but one thing I've been looking forward to is vacation. The hubs and I have tried making it a September tradition to take a trip for the two of us to have some fun and just enjoy ourselves. Unfortunately, it looks like that's not happening this year. We have way too many other financial obligations, and so today was the official cancellation day. I got our deposit back, and just like that we're no longer going on vacation (and considering we live extremely close to the airport, driving by it on the way home today is going to be a major bummer).

I know to some people it may not seem like a big deal, but I'm a big believer in taking vacations. Sometimes we all need a little R&R, and I think the memories are also extremely important. So to be not doing it this year is a little bit heartbreaking. And while theoretically I could just throw the cost of the trip on a credit card and call it good, I can't bring myself to do that. It's not a financially wise decision, and honestly since finances was the reason we chose to cancel.. well, why make the situation even worse? Hopefully this is just a temporary thing though. I have faith that we can maybe rebook this same trip or a similar one for a few months later once some of the money strain goes away.

Thanks for hearing me out on my little whine party. I'll post something a bit more fun and optimistic soon, I promise!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Samantha Kingston is one of the most popular girls in school. She and her friends are cruel and condescending, and yet everyone wants to be them. Sam is dating the most popular guy in school, and she has everything going for her: Until she dies, the victim of a car wreck.

But then something crazy happens. Sam wakes up, and suddenly she's reliving her last day on earth. Confused and frightened, she goes through it all again and tries to figure out where things went wrong, but for some reason she keeps waking up and getting a "do-over." And as she continues to find herself in this strange situation again and again she starts to learn more about all the people who surround her, discovers what she really wants in life, and finds herself trying to save more than just her life on that fateful day.

The premise of this book is fascinating. What would you do if you could relive your last day? Would you do anything different, or do you have no regrets? And how do your actions, no matter how small, impact the lives of others?

The only thing I didn't like about this book was that at times it felt (oh, wait, it was) repetitive. I understand this was part of the story, but it really reminded me a lot of the movie Groundhog Day, which was actually mentioned in the book. The problem with this is that I really, really did not like Groundhog Day. So reading about events that were already mentioned, even if they were a bit different the next time around, was a little boring for me.

Otherwise, I thought it was great. Oliver really nailed the high school scene well, and it brought up a few memories of my high school days (which, admittedly, I wish I could have a do-over on). The characters, while at first glance a bit one-dimensional, were in fact startlingly deep and complex. It just goes to show that even those highest on the food chain in high school also have their own deep insecurities, just like the "losers."

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Seeking Spirits: The Lost Cases of The Atlantic Paranormal Society by Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson

I'd like to first point out that I'm a big fan of Ghost Hunters on SyFy. It's the only ghost hunting show on TV that I feel has a basis in reality. There's nothing worse than seeing some so-called medium or psychic on TV saying, "Oh, I feel a presence in this room! She is very unhappy and standing in that corner over there!" I mean, really? That's DUMB. I'm not going to watch a ghost hunting show and just assume that this person knows what they're talking about and go, "Oh wow! That guy says it's haunted, therefore it must be haunted!" I want to see people using a more scientific approach and actually trying to catch evidence that I can see or hear: Video, photographs, audio, etc. It is FAR cooler to me when TAPS actually catches a video of something a little crazy or a voice that says something totally nuts. I have had quite a few paranormal experiences myself (yes, I do believe in ghosts), and I want people to understand that people who believe aren't totally nuts. I think TAPS does a great job of showing the world that yes, there COULD be something else out there.

Seeking Spirits is actually Jason and Grant's second book. The first book was published a few years ago, and as much as I tried to read it I couldn't get into it since a lot of it was pretty much written recaps of various Ghost Hunters episodes. I've seen most of the episodes, so why do I want to read a play by play? Oh, that's right. I don't. However, Seeking Spirits actually delves more into investigations and experiences they had before the show was ever on the air, with the investigations spanning about ten years from 1994 to 2004. Some of the stories are boring, and some of them about made my eyes pop out of their sockets. Interspersed with these stories are tips for people who are wanting to give ghost hunting a shot.

It took me a while to read this book, mainly because sometimes I really have to be in the mood to read non-fiction. It's not usually my favorite genre. I knew that without a doubt I would finish, but I took a few breaks here and there to read some fiction books as well (all of which have been previously reviewed!). Since each investigation is only a page or two at most, it was the type of book that I was able to take breaks with and pick up again with no problem.
I loved hearing about Grant's first paranormal experience. Some of the stories that really stick out in my mind are the investigation of the trailer park where they found some evidence of satanic rituals, the doppelganger investigation, and the man who was convinced his recently deceased wife was hanging around. There were more, but those are three off the top of my head. I also learned more about ghost hunting and about different types of spirits and hauntings. I knew the basics such as a residual haunting versus an intelligent haunting, but honestly I never knew what an incubus was until I read this book (and if you don't know what it is, umm.. eww.). I think this book would make anyone think twice about using an Ouija board too.

So overall, I would recommend this book to fans of the show and anyone who is interested in the paranormal.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday

This is my first Waiting on Wednesday post, in which bloggers highlight a book they're anxiously anticipating the release of. Frankly, right now how do I pick just one at the moment? There are four that I'm dying to get my grubby little paws on this summer, with plenty of others that I'm definitely eyeballing.

So for the purposes of this post, I'll draw from a hat in my mind.

And I pick... Linger by Maggie Stiefvater.

If you missed it, I read and loved Shiver, the first book in Stiefvater's The Wolves of Mercy Falls series. You can read about it and admire its absolutely gorgeous cover artwork here. Linger is the next book in the series, and I can't wait to see where the story goes. It will be coming to your local bookstore on July 1, 2010.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead

Ever since my disastrous attempt at reading The Vampire Diaries series (first series in my life that I just could not bring myself to finish), I've pretty much avoided the bazillions of young adult vampire series that are out there. Of course I read Twilight a few years ago (is there anyone who hasn't these days?), and I've enjoyed the trashy deliciousness that is the Southern Vampire/Sookie Stackhouse series. But let's face it: Aside from Twilight itself, I felt the rest of the series wasn't nearly as awesome. And the Southern Vampire series isn't YA, so I consider that to be a whole different beast. It's not that I'm anti-YA Vampire Lit, because I'm not. These books just all seem like copycats of each other, and I hear that quite frankly some of them suck. Like the Vampire Diaries series.

However, I have been hearing somewhat consistently good things about the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead. And I have to admit, I was pretty intrigued by the premise because it sounded a bit different than the whole human-girl-falls-in-love-with-hot-vampire thing. This one didn't even seem to have any human characters, and that really sounded kind of fun.

So, point being... I read all four currently-published books in about four days. This is not a record for me by any means, but the fact that I absolutely devoured these books and ultimately probably neglected my husband for much of those four days really says something (though he cannot complain too much considering I made him some mean biscuits and gravy for breakfast yesterday). These books will never hold a flame to my love Harry Potter, but if they sucked I certainly wouldn't have munched on them all weekend like I did. Heck, I even abandoned much of the Olympics for these!

Before I get into the synopsis and some more info, here is a little bit of vocabulary to help you out:

Moroi = Mortal Vampire race. They're nice, generally speaking, and while they still need blood to survive, they do not kill.

Dhampir = Half Moroi/Half Human. These guys are stronger than Moroi, but they inherited the Vampire-esque quick reflexes and a few other useful traits. Dhampirs often become guardians for Moroi, particularly Moroi royalty.

Strigoi = Immortal Vampire race. They are not nice, and they kill. There are two ways to become one: A Moroi can become Strigoi by intentionally killing someone while feeding, or a Strigoi can turn anyone (Moroi/Dhampir/Human) by biting the victim to drain their blood and then feeding Strigoi blood back to said victim, who them becomes Strigoi.

The first book in the series, Vampire Academy, begins when Lissa, a Moroi princess, and Rose, a Dhampir who is Lissa's best friend and future guardian, are captured after being on the run for two years and brought back to their vampire academy, St. Vladimir's Academy. They had originally broken out of the school because it was not safe for Lissa, and it quickly turns out that it is still not safe when bad things begin happening. Rose, fearing for Lissa's safety, does her best to try and protect her best friend as she herself continues training to become a full-fledged guardian.

Obviously, the story gets more complex and involved as the series goes on, but I can't give the synopsis of any books other than the first without giving away some serious plot points. These books really have some interesting dynamics that kept me thinking though: Moroi are considered superior to Dhampirs, and yet the Moroi can't seem to survive without the help of their Dhampir guardians. Meanwhile, the undead Strigoi are considered to be evil and soulless, shells of what they had been in life. When someone is turned Strigoi, the rest of the vampire community considers them to be dead, despite the fact that technically that person is still walking around, albeit chomping on innocent victims. Nevertheless, it creates some interesting situations and dynamics that I enjoyed contemplating.

Something else I enjoyed about the series is that our narrator is Rose. She's so interesting because despite being incredibly flawed, she also has some amazing characteristics that give her a lot of depth. She really is a great person to be telling this story because as a Dhampir, her view is so incredibly unique as well. She's not particularly high on the totem pole, and yet she's best friends with a Moroi princess who is the last member of her esteemed royal line. I can imagine that it would be exhausting to have a friend like that.

I can't really say much else about the series other than it has been a great roller coaster ride. Here is the order of the series:
Vampire Academy
Shadow Kiss
Blood Promise
Spirit Bound
(to be released May 18, 2010)
Book Six, Title TBD

Based on the author's website, there's a chance for a spin-off series as well. I'm curious as to what this would entail. Regardless, I'm definitely looking forward to May 18th!