Sunday, November 25, 2012

Book Review: Breaking Dawn

Breaking Dawn, the concluding novel in the Twilight saga, begins on a high note.  Victoria and her newborn army have been defeated, and it looks as if the love story between the human and the vampire can finally have a happy ending.   
 As the book opens, Edward and Bella are preparing for their approaching wedding, which proves to be perfectly ideal, mostly thanks to the coordination efforts of the enthusiastic Alice.
During the reception, Edward and Bella discover they have a surprise wedding guest.  The Quileute wolf and Bella’s ‘former’ best friend, Jacob, has returned home after his long self-imposed exile from La Push.  When Edward gives Bella and Jacob time for them to talk alone, it seems as if they can part on good terms, until Bella lets slip the compromise she’d made with Edward prior to getting married, about how Edward had agreed to make love to her while she was still human.  Jacob becomes enraged by this knowledge and has to be dragged of by some of his packmates, who had been lurking nearby just in case Jacob started to loose his composure.  Bella and Edward are both deeply shaken by the nearly-disastrous confrontation, but they manage to push it aside and enjoy the rest of their day.
After the wedding, Edward brings Bella to Isle Esme, a private island located off the coast of Brazil, which Carlisle had given to Esme as an anniversary present, presumably a long time ago.  It is here that Edward and Bella consummate their relationship for the first time.  Bella wakes up the morning after to find Edward in super-ultra-angst mode.  It turns out that Edward’s lovemaking had left Bella’s body extremely bruised.  Being true to his nature, Edward declares that he refuses to continue risking hurting Bella like that, and that he won’t make love to her again until after she’s changed.  Despite this promise, Bella eventually wears him down, leading to their discovery that is safe for them to have sex, because Edward now knows what to expect beforehand and can better channel his vampire strength.
Meanwhile, Bella has been experiencing a series of strange dreams, which had begun almost immediately after their arrival on Isle Esme.  In addition, her appetite starts to increase, with a strong preference for eggs.  Things cumulate when Bella begins getting sick to her stomach.  At first, she blames her upset stomach on food poisoning, as some chicken she cooked for herself tasted ‘off,’ but after her second bought of sickness, Bella tries to look for some Pepto-Bismol in her first aid kit and discovers an unopened box of tampons.  Upon finding the tampons, she realizes her period is five days late, and when she starts examining her stomach, she even finds that there is a definite bump growing there.
Now this is obviously a very big deal.  For starters, even though she’s only been sexually active for about two weeks, Bella’s body is already displaying the symptoms of pregnancy, such as food cravings and morning sickness.  Plus, she’s even started sporting a baby bump.  Anyone who has taken Sex Ed in school can tell you that normal human pregnancies just don’t develop that quickly.  In addition, the child growing inside Bella is half vampire, and there is no telling how Bella’s body will be able to handle carrying a child with that particular parentage.  Out of fear for Bella’s safety, Edward makes arrangements for an immediate return to Forks, where Carlisle will be waiting to have the pregnancy terminated.  However, Bella is deeply opposed to this plan.  Despite her earlier insistence that she wasn’t interested in being a mother, she develops an instant love for the half-vampire growing inside her.  In desperation, she secretly calls Edward’s sister, Rosalie, for help.  Rosalie had always dreamed of having children, but was robbed of that possibility on the night Carlisle had found her close to death.  For that reason, Bella knows that Rosalie will be willing to help her protect the child.
At this point, the story shifts gears, and we now see things progress through Jacob’s eyes.  Ever since the wedding, Jacob has been waiting for Edward and Bella to return, convinced that Bella will either return as a vampire, which would terminate the treaty between the Quileute wolves and the Cullens, or she would not have survived the honeymoon.  When  he receives news that they have returned, and that Bella is supposedly in quarantine at the Cullens’ place after being infected with a rare South American disease, he immediately heads over to confront them, believing that the whole disease story is a cover-up for Bella returning to Forks as a newborn vampire.  Upon arriving at the Cullens’ place, however, he finds that the disease story was indeed a cover-up, but instead of being a newborn vampire, Bella is already heavily pregnant.  When Jacob returns to La Push and informs the rest of the Quileute wolf pack about Bella’s unexpected pregnancy, the pack’s Alpha, Sam, decides that the half-vampire child poses too great a risk and has to be eliminated, even if it means killing Bella in the process.
Upon hearing Sam’s plans, Jacob balks.  Despite his earlier eagerness to take the Cullens out, he now understands that he didn’t truly want to kill them, and he certainly doesn’t want to harm Bella.  However, with Sam being the Alpha, he is unable to defy the command to fight with the rest of the pack, until he willingly embraces his birthright.  Back in Eclipse, we learned that Jacob was supposed to be the pack’s Alpha, since he was the direct descendant of Ephraim Black, the Alpha from the last Quileute wolf pack and the one who originally made the treaty with the Cullen clan.  However, at the time, Jacob had refused to step up, and allowed Sam to assume the role.  But now, Jacob willingly accepts his Alpha status, and is no longer bound to Sam’s authority.  Upon being freed from Sam’s leadership, Jacob sets off alone to warn the Cullens about what Sam is planning to do, being joined immediately by Seth, the young Quileute wolf who had worked alongside Edward in Eclipse to take out Victoria and Riley, and thus formed a friendship-of-sorts with the vampire.  From here on in, Jacob and Seth form a second Quileute wolf pack, which Seth’s sister, Leah, eventually joins out of her desire to get away from Sam, whom she still harbors feelings for despite the fact that he imprinted on someone else.  Throughout the second portion of the book, Jacob’s pack continues to stand guard over the Cullens’ place, waiting to see if Sam will send his pack to attack the Cullen clan after all. 
Meanwhile, Bella’s pregnancy continues to progress, and it is constantly shown that the rapidly growing child is much too strong for Bella’s human body to handle, as every movement the unborn child makes causes Bella to feel pain, with some movements even resulting in bruises forming on Bella’s skin.  Things start to take a positive turn, however, when Edward discovers that he is able to hear the baby’s thoughts.  Not only does this discovery help vanquish all of Edward’s previous fears and misgivings about the nature of the child growing inside Bella, it also indicates that the baby might be developed enough to survive outside the womb.  As a result, Edward makes plans to have Carlisle help deliver the baby once the Cullen clan’s patriarch returns with more donated blood for Bella.  (It was discovered earlier that, due to the baby being half-vampire, Bella could maintain her strength through her unusual pregnancy by drinking the blood Carlisle was able to borrow from the hospital’s donated blood supply.)  Before Carlisle can return, a sudden move on Bella’s part results in the placenta detaching, forcing Rosalie to perform an emergency C-section to save the baby, with Edward taking over when the smell of exposed blood becomes too much for her to handle.  In the end, Edward successfully delivers the baby, which is revealed to be a girl who is promptly named Renesmee.  However, the physical stress of the delivery proves to be too much for Bella’s mortal body, and her heart suddenly stops beating almost immediately after she glimpses Renesmee for the first time.  While Jacob begins performing CPR to get her heart beating again, Edward goes to work at getting enough venom into Bella’s bloodstream to begin her transformation into a vampire, even going so far as to injecting some straight into her heart.  While Jacob looses hope and decides that Bella is well and truly gone, Edward refuses to accept this and continues to focus all his efforts into ensuring Bella’s heart keeps beating throughout the transition, even if it means forcing it to do so manually.  His efforts eventually prove to be successful, as Bella’s heart suddenly begins beating on its own again, making it possible for the vampire venom to spread throughout her body and begin the transformation process.
            The story now returns to Bella’s POV, just in time for readers to experience her first forty-eight hours as a newborn vampire.  Much to the Cullens’s surprise, Bella, thanks to how she was well-informed and prepared for vampire life beforehand, proves to have good control over her emotions and instincts, even though newborns are usually known for being extremely volatile.  Throughout these forty-eight hours, Bella is able to discover she now has everything she wanted and more.  She can now be with Edward forever, and they also have Renesmee, the daughter that they never thought was possible.  In addition, she is even able to keep her best friend, Jacob, in her life, due to the fact that Jacob involuntarily imprinted on Renesmee while Bella was in transition (something that both Edward and Bella are thoroughly irritated by.)   However, even though it appears that Bella and Edward can finally have their happily ever after, there is still a dark cloud over their lives.  Renesmee is still growing at an unnaturally fast rate, and at one point, it’s stated that she grew two whole inches in a single day.  This unsettling fact leaves the Cullens and Jacob with understandable fears about what the future will hold for the rapidly-growing Renesmee.  They decide to head off to Brazil, where there are legends of half-vampire children like Renesmee, hoping that they will find some much-needed answers.  Unfortunately, before they can leave, Irina, an old friend of the Cullens and a member of the only other known group of vegetarian vampires, decides to pay the Cullens a visit.  On her way to the Cullen clan’s home, she catches a glimpse of Renesmee hunting alongside Jacob and Bella and mistakes the half-vampire girl for an Immortal Child.
            Now, Immortal Children, which is a term for babies or small children who are changed into vampires, are strictly forbidden in the vampire world, and the creation of one means an instant death sentence for both the Immortal Child and the creator.  Since Irina and her two sisters, Kate and Tanya, were forced to watch their own mother and creator being executed for creating an Immortal Child centuries ago, Irina is a purist when it comes to that particular law.  As a result, she heads straight to Italy to inform the Volturi that the Cullens have ‘broken’ the law and created a forbidden Immortal Child.  The Cullens, who are pre-warned of this because of Alice’s visions, know that the only chance they have of surviving this accusation is by calling on all of their friends and acquaintances in the vampire world to stand as witnesses that Renesmee is not what the Volturi think she is.  But even then, there is the chance that it won’t be enough.  Seeing as how Breaking Dawn Part 2 is still in theaters at the time of this post, I’m not going to discuss the ending for those who don’t already know how it ends (even though I don’t see how you can really call yourself a Twilight fan if you only watch the movies and haven’t even attempted to read the books by now), particularly since I know people who hate spoilers.  Even that friend of mine who first introduced me to the Twilight saga, who was mentioned in my review of the first book; if she reads a book or sees a movie before I do, she refuses to tell me anything about what happens.  She won’t even tell me if it’s going to be raining in the next chapter/scene.
            Now, even though there are numerous mixed feelings about this book, even among the people who were already fans of the Twilight saga, I have to say that Breaking Dawn is probably my favorite book in the entire series.  Thus, I’m going to start out by discussing some things I’ve seen fans complain about.  First off, there is quite a stink about how Edward could even father a child, since he is technically not even alive and lacks the necessary ability to produce sperm and such.  When it comes to these people, I wonder why they are getting technical about vampires.  Like I said back in my Twilight review, vampires are fictional creatures, and you can make them do whatever you want as long as they still drink blood.  And besides, the entire saga is, when you think about it, a modern day fairy tale story.  If you’re going to get technical about every little detail in a fairy tale, why not start asking how the wolf could communicate with humans in Little Red Riding Hood, or how it is at all possible that the princess could feel a stupid little pea under all those mattresses, or how Cinderella managed to obtain a fairy godmother, or even why a family of bears would want to eat porridge?
            On the other hand, if people still insist on harping on that fact that male vampires can father children while female vamps are barren, I personally ascribe to what I call the Groundhog Day theory to explain it.  I’m sure that, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few decades, you’ve at least heard of the movie Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray.  In that movie, Murray’s character, Phil, experienced the same day over and over again.  Now, what if the main character in that movie was a woman?  Generally speaking, since she was experiencing the same day repeatedly, she probably wouldn’t be progressing in regards to her menstrual cycle, would she?  In other words, if she wasn’t menstruating on her first time around on the day that keeps repeating, she probably wouldn’t be menstruating at all until the day stopped repeating.  Men, on the other hand, unless I misread the biology textbooks, can produce sperm anytime, anywhere.  Thus, it can probably help if you utilize the Groundhog Day theory in regards to the TwiVamps.
            Secondly, there is quite an uproar about Jacob imprinting on Renesmee.  I’ve seen quite a few people accusing Stephenie Meyer of promoting child grooming and stuff like that.  Where I’m standing, it’s clear that these people aren’t really grasping the concept of imprinting.  It is stated more that once that there is nothing at all romantic about Jacob’s feelings for Renesmee at this point.  (And as Jacob states, there is no way Edward would have let him live if that was the case.)  As it stands, Jacob is only concerned about keeping Renesmee safe and happy, and I’m sure that if you ask around, you’d find that those are exactly the feelings that loving parents would have for their child, or a good brother would for his younger sibling.  And yes, it is possible that Jacob and Renesmee could one day end up in a romantic relationship, but until that day comes, Jacob will simply be something between Renesmee’s closest friend and devoted older brother.  As for the infamous issue about how disgusting it is that Jacob was in love with Bella and then imprints on her daughter?  Well, I might be alone in this, but I personally feel that Jacob was never really in love with Bella.  To be honest, I tend to think that the imprinting impulse is so strong, Jacob was being unknowingly drawn to Renesmee before she was even conceived.  Since neither Jacob nor Bella could know that Renesmee’s existence was even possible prior to Bella’s pregnancy in Breaking Dawn, Jacob reasonably misread the signs.  I’m sure others will disagree with me about that, but that’s how I interpreted the whole issue.
            I also have to address the issue of some people claiming the Twilight saga is anti-feminist because of Bella doing all the cooking and cleaning when she’s living with Charlie, how she doesn’t go to college and get a career, ends up being a wife and mother, etc.  Well, maybe my knowledge of history is flawed, but I thought the whole feminist movement happened because women wanted a choice.  In those days, if you were a woman, you couldn’t vote or hold a political office, and you didn’t have many options outside of becoming a mousy little housewife and being subservient to your husband.  The feminist movement came about because the women of those days wanted to be allowed to choose the course of their lives instead of having their futures chosen for them since birth.   Perhaps I’m wrong, but isn’t that what Bella does again and again in the books?  She CHOOSES to become a vampire, she CHOOSES to build a life with Edward, and she CHOOSES to not terminate her pregnancy, even when the people around her are trying to tell her otherwise.  So how is that anti-feminist?  It’s like people are saying a woman is anti-feminist if she chooses to be a stay-at-home mom instead of becoming a big CEO or accepting a respected position in a law firm.
            One last thing some people complain about is how the book ends.  Like I said before, I won’t give anything away to anyone who doesn’t already know how Breaking Dawn ends, in honor of the above-mentioned friend.  But I will say that some readers seem to feel cheated by the ending.  If any of those people are reading this, I ask you to look at the cover of Breaking Dawn.  It’s a chessboard, right?  Well, isn’t chess essentially a battle of wits?  Try to keep that in mind when you reread the ending.  It might help you feel less cheated.
            I do have a few very small complaints about this book.  The first of these complaints is the sudden absence of the meadow.  Throughout the Twilight saga, there was a small, almost magical, meadow located in the woods surrounding Forks.  It was initially the site where Edward and Bella put an end to their metaphorical dance and officially confessed their love for one another.  That meadow continues to play a part in the next two books and becomes Edward and Bella’s secret spot.  At the end of Eclipse, Edward even refers to the place as their meadow.  I’m a bit put off by the fact that Edward and Bella don’t even mention that meadow in Breaking Dawn.  Did their new cottage wipe all memory of the meadow from their minds or something?  (Although, from what I’ve seen from the movie trailers for Breaking Dawn Part 2, they at least remember the meadow in the movie version, so I guess that counts for something.)
            Apart from the meadow issue, I had one other minor grievance, and even though I know it’s not completely Stephenie Meyer’s fault and it wouldn’t have made much sense otherwise, I still feel a bit cheated.  I am talking about Garrett, one of the nomad vampires that come to Forks to aid the Cullens in proving that Renesmee is not an Immortal Child.  I can’t help feeling slightly irritated that we didn’t meet him until almost the very end of the Twilight saga, because I cannot see how anyone would not be able to like Garrett, particularly when he presents his speech during the battle with the Volturi in the last few chapters.  To be honest, he’s quite possibly my favorite vampire outside of the Cullen clan, and I wish we were allowed to see more of him.
            Breaking Dawn also puts the final nail in the coffin (no pun intended) in regards to the Volturi’s true nature.  When they first appeared in the saga, they were portrayed as the necessary evil charged with making sure the vampires of the world kept their existence a secret from the humans.  In Eclipse, those honorable motives are put into question with the possibility that they might have an underlying agenda.  This time around, the Cullens and their allies are able to gather enough evidence to leave them with proof that the Volturi leaders, particularly Aro, are only concerned with maintaining their position of power, and whenever they feel that a certain coven might eventually threaten their power, they will go out of their way to find a reason to accuse that coven of breaking Vampire Law in some way, which will give the Volturi the excuse to eliminate the perceived threat.  (This is one of the reasons why I enjoyed the Twilight saga so much.  We got the love story between Edward and Bella, a secret and elaborately-constructed world hidden within our own, and a vampire government that presents a beneficial front to the common folk when its true nature is actually corrupted and crooked.  Combine those three elements into one saga, and I’m sold.)
            On that note, I conclude this review and Twilight month.  I hope you enjoyed my explanation about why I liked the book series, and my attempts at addressing the typical complaints about Twilight that many haters seem to bring up.  Don’t get me wrong, people are free to dislike Twilight.  It simply gets tiring to see people complaining about the same things over and over again, and never seeing any original reasons for the hate. (Sometimes, I can’t help wondering if people only hate the franchise so much because it’s considered cool to bash Twilight.)   And thank you for visiting Tome and Flick corner.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Book Review: Eclipse

            When we last left the world of the Twilight saga, things were looking rather bad for 18-year-old Bella Swan and her vampire lover, Edward Cullen.  Not only was the nomad vampire, Victoria, bent on getting revenge on Edward for the death of her mate, James, by killing Bella in return, but the Volturi, the ruling class of vampires, have also decreed that Bella must either die or become a vampire herself on account of her knowing too much about the vampire world.  To top it off, the delicate treaty-bound peace between the Cullens and the Quileute werewolf pack is hanging by a fraying thread, and a war between the two families is seemingly imminent.
             As Eclipse, the third novel in the Twilight saga, begins, Edward and Bella have almost picked up where they left off before Edward’s failed attempt at protecting Bella by leaving in New Moon, but with one difference.  Prior to Edward leaving Forks, Bella hadn’t developed her friendship with the Quileute werewolf, Jacob Black, and now that Edward has returned, Bella now finds herself in the difficult situation of sharing a connection with vampires and werewolves, two species whom nature decreed to be eternal enemies. 
Edward, likewise, has great difficulty in allowing Bella to visit Jacob, due in part to his protectiveness of Bella and his fear of the Quileute werewolves’ allegedly volatile nature, as well as his insecurity with the fact that Jacob also harbors romantic feelings for Bella.  For a while, he tries to prevent Bella from seeing Jacob, by either disabling her car or having his sister, Alice, hold Bella ‘hostage’ while he is away hunting.  However, after Bella manages to slip away to La Push not once, but twice, Edward becomes willing to compromise, and allows Bella to visit Jacob occasionally, on the condition that she carries a cell phone with her at all times, so she’ll be able to call him if anything happens.
Meanwhile, the city of Seattle is being plagued by an extensive series of violent, unsolved murders.  While the newspapers and police blame the murders on gang activity and eventually a serial killer, the Cullens are able to discern enough to conclude the truth, and recognize that the murders are really being caused by newborn vampires.  As the human deaths escalate, indicating a staggering increase in the number of newborns in Seattle, Jasper realizes that someone is actually trying to create an army of newborn vampires.  While there are various speculations as to who is creating the newborn army, no one is able to agree on a culprit. While this is going on, the Cullens are faced with a second mystery when an unknown vampire sneaks into Bella’s room while she is over at the Cullen’s home and steals some of her clothes.  It is Bella who eventually manages to link the two situations together, realizing that the vampire in her room had stolen her clothes to bring her scent to the newborn army, meaning she is their target.
Now, with the knowledge that the newborn army was created to target Bella, the Cullens know they must fight the newborn army to protect Bella and the entire town of Forks.  But since they are unable to call upon their allies from other vampire families and covens, and with the Volturi taking their own sweet time in stepping in and stopping the newborn army from running wild, they are faced with the inevitable and terrible conclusion that, due to the newborns outnumbering them, some members of the Cullen family would not survive the battle.  However, just when Alice receives a vision of the newborn army moving in to lay siege to Forks, Jacob and the rest of the Quileute werewolves step up, stating their willingness to set aside their natural feud and join forces with the Cullens to take out the newborn army together.
As the formerly-feuding families start working on their game plan, Edward, thanks to Alice’s visions and Bella’s tendency to talk in her sleep, realizes that Bella is planning to purposely place herself in harm’s way in the hopes that doing so would help the Cullens and the Quileute wolves fight the newborn army.  After a brief argument about the matter, Edward realizes that the only way Bella would willingly stay away from the battle is if Edward sits out of the fight to remain with her.  He agrees to this and promptly starts making arrangements.  It is decided that Edward and Bella will stay at a makeshift campsite up in the mountains, miles away from the designated battle site.  To ensure that none of the newborns would catch Bella’s scent trail and follow her, one of the Quileute wolves would accompany her in order to mask Bella’s scent.  (It’s stated more than once that vampires find the scent of the Quileute wolves repulsive, and vice versa.)
 On the day before the battle against the newborns, Alice arranges an alibi for Bella, by giving Charlie the false story that Bella will be having a slumber party with Alice while the rest of the Cullens go on one of their periodic camping trips.  In truth, Alice and most of the Cullens will be out hunting, to ensure they’re all at full-strength for the battle.  Edward, on the other hand, since he would be sitting out to remain with Bella during the battle, did not need to hunt.   Meaning that Alice has ensured that they will have the whole house to themselves that night.
By this point in the story, the events that have been occurring have forced Bella to truly think about what becoming a vampire would mean for her, and completely grasp what she would be giving up by entering into immortality.  While she’s no longer jumping blindly into her decision, she still wishes to become a vampire to remain at Edward’s side forever.  However, there is one human experience she is reluctant to sacrifice before giving up her human life, and she decides that this night alone with Edward would be the perfect time to undertake it.  While she and Edward are settling into their night alone, she attempts to iron out the details of the compromise he’d presented to her back in New Moon, when he said he’d turn her into a vampire if she married him first.  Bella tells Edward that she’ll agree to his terms on one condition: if he agrees to make love to her while she’s still human.  Edward initially balks at the idea, fearing that he would seriously hurt or even mortally injure Bella because of his vampire strength.  Bella soon gets him to agree that they’ll at least try, but Edward insists on waiting until after they’re married before consummating their relationship, on account of his turn-of-the-century moral code.
The next day, Edward and Bella make their way to their designated camp site, with Jacob stepping up as the Quileute wolf charged with masking Bella’s scent-trail.  After a whole mess of love triangle shenanigans that would take too long to explain happens, Jacob leaves to participate in the battle with the newborns, with Edward using his mind-reading ability to keep tabs on what’s happening.  However, in the middle of the battle, Edward realizes that Victoria has came across his own scent-trail and followed it, knowing that he would be where Bella was.  Thankfully, after a vicious battle, Edward comes out on top and defeats Victoria for good.
The final moments of the book are basically used to wrap things up.  Bella visits La Push for the final time to visit Jacob, who was injured while protecting a fellow pack member who got a bit too confident and foolhardy while trying to take down a stray newborn alone.  During her visit, she attempts to part ways with him on good terms, still wishing to stick with her original decision in joining the Cullen family.  The following day, she gives Alice the job of wedding coordinator, allowing her to oversee the plans for Edward and Bella’s upcoming wedding.  In the final pages, Bella is left trying to muster up enough courage to announce her marriage plans to Charlie.
Eclipse racks up some major points in my book for some long-awaited character development.  It is in this book that we are finally told the full back stories of Rosalie and Jasper.  Prior to this book, Rosalie was just this annoyingly vain character who spent almost all of her time either glaring at Bella or pretending she didn’t exist, and Jasper was the enigmatic vampire who seemingly stayed with the Cullens only because of his devotion to his beloved Alice.  Finally, readers are able to understand the reasons behind Rosalie’s bitterness and are even able to sympathize with her, and we also discover that Jasper is a battle-worn veteran who has never known peace and happiness before finding Alice and joining the Cullen family.
In addition, Eclipse was the book in which I gained a new appreciation for the relationship between Alice and Jasper.  The scene that made me a follower of this pairing occurred right after Alice has her vision of the newborn army arriving in Forks.  In the scene in question, Jacob demands to be let into the loop, and pretty much gets in her face about it.  Then, out of the blue, Jasper is right there, ready to defend Alice.  I have no idea why I enjoyed that scene so much, but the fact that Jasper appears out of nowhere to protect his mate just stuck with me.  To me, this spoke volumes of their relationship, and indicated that Jasper is always very aware of where Alice is, especially considering he can appear so suddenly the instant she is being accosted by a werewolf.  (Then again, it also might have been Jasper’s ability to feel the emotions of the people around him that alerted him to the confrontation, but even so…)  In any event, from that point on, my eyes were immediately drawn to every singe one of Alice and Jasper’s interactions, and they have became my absolute favorite secondary relationship in the Twilight saga.
            This book also gains honorable mention for introducing the concept of imprinting.  In the society of the Quileute werewolf pack, imprinting is a strange phenomenon that occurs to some of the wolves.  When a Quileute wolf first meets the object of their imprinting, that individual immediately becomes the focal point of their entire world.  In the scene when Jacob tries to explain this phenomenon to Bella, he alludes it to gravity no longer being what holds the Quileute wolf to the ground, but rather the object of their imprinting, and from that point on, nothing matters more to the Quileute wolf then the safety and happiness of the one they imprinted on. The Quileute wolf will willingly and gladly do whatever it takes to ensure that safety and happiness.  This phenomenon can result in the formation of an unbreakable romantic bond that is not too dissimilar to the bond between vampires and their mates (such as is the case with Sam and his fiancĂ©e, Emily) or becoming a completely devoted nanny/older sibling to a child (such as the Quileute wolf, Quill and two-year-old Claire.)  This concept of imprinting proves to be extremely vital as the Twilight saga progresses, but I’ll cover that in my next review.
Eclipse also provides a proper introduction of my favorite character outside of the Cullen clan in the saga, Seth Clearwater.  In this book, Seth has officially joined the Quileute werewolf pack, becoming one of the youngest wolves in the pack.  (I say one of the youngest because there are two other wolves, Collin and Brady, who are implied to be rather young themselves.  But since Collin and Brady are only mentioned in passing occasionally and they never actually do anything at all, they are simply nothing more than placeholder characters, and there is very little I can say about them.)  Anyway, I personally find Seth to be a very likable character, despite the fact that he only appears in human form one time in this book, when Bella accompanies Jacob to a Quileute bonfire party where she and the entire Quileute wolf pack are told various tribal legends based on the Quileute wolf packs of the past, starting with how the ancient Quileutes first gained the ability to become wolves and continuing up to the wolf pack’s first encounter with the Cullens back in the mid-1930s.  However, Seth ends up playing a very important role in the book’s climax, and even though he spends the duration of said climax in his wolf form, you still are able to appreciate his personality as a human. And in the final book in the Twilight saga, Breaking Dawn, I can’t see how anyone wouldn’t be able to like Seth even more.  Obviously, I’ll discuss that in more detail when I review Breaking Dawn.
In addition to Seth, Eclipse also sheds a bit more light on his older sister, Leah, who, it turns out, also ended up joining the wolf pack.  This is apparently a big thing in La Push’s secret society, because prior to Leah joining the pack, it was firmly believed that only males could become wolves.  Leah’s claim to fame isn’t just being the only known female wolf in existence, however.  It turns out that some time before the Twilight saga began, she was romantically involved with the Quileute werewolf pack’s Alpha, Sam, but that all changed when Sam underwent the above-mentioned phenomenon of imprinting, with Leah’s cousin, Emily, being the object of Sam’s imprinting.  Thus, not only does Leah have to deal with being the only female wolf in a long line of solely male wolves, she also has to spend every day with her former boyfriend, who was forced to break her heart.  Understandably, Leah is left feeling rather bitter about the hand life has dealt her, and her frustrations often lead her to being purposely spiteful towards the other wolves in the pack, but it’s not until Breaking Dawn that we begin to truly understand her.
However, I didn’t completely enjoy this book.  For starters, the whole vampire/werewolf prejudice got old really fast, especially when it combined with the Edward/Bella/Jacob love triangle.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand that vampires and werewolves are born enemies, and that the love triangle had to be resolved after the conclusion of New Moon, but even so, that love triangle was the main focus of the first half of the book.  Never mind the innocent people dying in Seattle.  Never mind that Victoria’s still on the prowl, we have to focus on the whole vampire vs. werewolf/Edward vs. Jacob angle.  In the Drew Barrymore movie, Ever After, there was this one particular line: ‘What bothers you more, Stepmother?  That I am common or that I am competition?’  This line pretty much sums up the whole relationship between Edward and Jacob in Eclipse, only in this case, the line should be: ‘What bothers you more?  That I am your natural enemy or that I am competition?’  Personally, I think it’s a bit of both.  With Edward, he’s mostly worried about Bella seeing Jacob when she tries to go to La Push, using Jacob’s status as a werewolf as his excuse in preventing her from going, and yet, he never brings up the fact that La Push is home to an entire werewolf pack.  Instead, he simply is trying to keep her from seeing one particular werewolf.  Thus, his main issue here is most likely that Bella wants to see Jacob, who is evidently in love with Bella, too.  At the same time, he’s not exactly going out of his way to keep her away from people like Mike (who actually still tried to ask Bella out again while Edward was away ‘camping.’  Wow, that boy is persistent.)  As for Jacob, he sure goes out of his way to use every vampire-slur imaginable to talk trash about Edward.  Meanwhile, you don’t see anyone else in the wolf pack being so openly hostile to any of the Cullen clan   Thus, I’m pretty sure Jacob’s main malfunction about Bella being with Edward stems from the fact that he’s essentially a vampire bigot at this point in the saga.
Basically, I blame this book for that Team Edward/Team Jacob stuff that’s going on.  I really don’t know who started up that stupid team thing, but good grief, it’s really annoying.  It would be one thing if Bella wasn’t dating either one of them and was still single, but she is in an established relationship with Edward, and it’s pretty much implied again and again that vampires have only one predestined mate. (Refer to my New Moon review for my discussion on vampires and their predestined mates.)  So what gave anyone the idea that Bella, who was permanently bound to Edward though the unbreakable vampire/mate tie, would possibly be able to leave him for Jacob?  I simply cannot fathom it.  Thankfully, we had plenty of sweet, romantic scenes thrown in to help alleviate the pain brought about from the vampire vs. werewolf fueled love triangle, not to mention my rage brought about from the accursed team thing.  For example, the infamous ‘leg hitching scene’ after Bella returns from her second ‘unauthorized’ trip to La Push in chapter 8. 
Moving on, there was one point in Eclipse where I got so upset, I very nearly threw the book against the wall.  And from what I’ve read from other people’s reactions to the book on online message boards and discussion threads, I see I’m not the only one who got angry at this part.  For that reason, if you’ve already read the book, I’m quite sure you already know what part I’m talking about.  If not, allow me to refresh your memory.  At one point in the book, Jacob decides it would be a brilliant idea to declare his love for Bella, and then, without giving her a chance to refuse him, he forcibly kisses her.  While Jacob’s annoyingly unyielding confidence that he was in the right during this scene is rather irritating, I can almost overlook it, considering that he’s still a hormonally-challenged teenage boy, mentally speaking. (Even though that’s not really a valid excuse.  Key tip to any male/dominant female who might be reading this: ‘No’ means ‘no.’)  Actually, the thing that annoyed me the most about this part was how Bella’s father, Charlie, reacted when he heard about it.  What does he do when he finds out Jacob forcibly kissed his daughter without her permission?  He practically pats Jacob on the back!


           Really, Charlie?  Really?  This is your daughter, Chief Swan.  Your only child!  Yeah, I get that you don’t approve of Edward, and would like it more if Bella chose Jacob instead, but honestly!  If someone kisses your daughter without her consent, you are required, as a father, to side with your daughter and throw the kisser out of the house, and possibly threaten him with your gun, just for good measure.  Seriously, when I read this part, it felt as if Charlie would have cracked open the champagne if Jacob had sexually assaulted Bella.  By siding with Jacob, and practically scolding Bella when she continues to voice her fury with Jacob for the forced kiss, Charlie has not only violated all the time-honored unwritten laws of fatherhood, but he officially made me loose all respect for him.  Prior to this incident, I merely saw him as the dopey dad, and the worst criticism I had for him was ‘turn off the TV, put down the stupid fishing pole, and bond with your daughter while you still can.  But after this?  I’m sorry, Charlie, but I no longer have any sympathy for you, and there’s nothing you can ever do to get that sympathy back.  (I had to get that rant off my chest, and boy, does it feel good.)
            Before I end this review of Eclipse, I think I should say a few words about the Volturi.  In my New Moon review, I mentioned how the two books that followed it would shine a much harsher light on the Volturi as their true nature is slowly revealed, and Eclipse starts doing just that towards the end of the book.  As mentioned earlier, the Volturi seemed to be taking their time in dealing with the newborn army in Seattle.  At one point in Eclipse, it is theorized that perhaps the reason the Italian vampires hadn’t dealt with the problem right away is because they were possibly hoping that the newborn army would end up reducing the size of the Cullen family.  In the end, even though it is not stated straight out, it is implied that Edward, due to his mind-reading gift, has discovered that this theory was spot-on.  And while I’m not going to go into it too much just yet, that fact will be important in the final book in the Twilight saga, Breaking Dawn, which I intend to review quite soon.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Book Review: New Moon

            So, in the novel Twilight, we were introduced to Bella Swan, a young human girl, and Edward Cullen, the ‘vegetarian’ vampire, who share a consuming yet forbidden love.  After the whole ordeal with the tracker vampire, James, in the last book, it looks as if Edward and Bella’s love can overcome anything.  But as one would expect, problems have a tendency to present themselves when a human and a vampire fall in love.

            As New Moon, the sequel to Twilight, begins, Edward and Bella are just starting their senior year at Forks High School.  On Bella’s 18th birthday, she accompanies Edward to his home, where the entire Cullen family throws her a birthday party.  However, as Bella is opening her presents, she accidentally cuts her finger on the wrapping paper, drawing blood.  This event leads to Jasper, the Cullen family member who has the hardest time resisting human blood, temporarily loosing control.  Even though Jasper is successfully restrained from attacking Bella, this accident forces Edward to remember the constant danger Bella faces by sharing a love with a vampire.  Not wanting to put the girl he loves into any more danger, Edward decides that it would be best to remove himself from Bella’s life.  As a result, Edward and the rest of the Cullens move away from Forks to an undisclosed location, with Edward leaving Bella with a cold farewell.
            With Edward gone from her life, Bella falls into a deep depression, cutting herself off from the world around her.  After her depression has continued for over three months, her father, Charlie, tries to convince Bella to seek help in dealing with her heartbreak.  Trying to get Charlie off her back, Bella spontaneously decides to visit Port Angeles to see a movie with her classmate, Jessica.  After the movie, Bella and Jessica start to head over to a McDonald’s for dinner, but on the way, Bella sees some men outside a bar who remind her of the men who tried to attack her during her visit to Port Angeles back in Twilight.  As she approaches them, Bella suddenly hears Edward’s voice in her head, instructing her to keep away from the men.  It isn’t too long before Bella realizes that whenever she’s doing something dangerous or reckless, she’d be able to imagine exactly what Edward would be saying to her if he had been there with perfect clarity.  Out of desperation to continue hearing his voice, Bella begins to look for situations that would generate her ‘hallucinations.’  And this includes secretly buying and learning to ride a motorcycle, something her father has always forbidden her from.  The motorcycle she buys turns out to be in need of repair, and Bella remembers her Quileute friend from Twilight, Jacob Black, is rather good at building cars.  Jacob, as we can clearly see, still harbors his schoolboy crush on Bella, so he’s more than happy to help her repair the motorcycle, and even agrees to 1) keep the motorcycle a secret from Charlie and 2) help her learn how to ride it.  As time goes on, Bella continues to visit Jacob as he works on the motorcycle, and they gradually form a strong friendship.  What’s more, her time with Jacob begins to help Bella cope with the emotional and mental wounds Edward’s departure left her with, becoming her safe haven.
            After a while, strange things begin happening.  It starts with multiple sightings of strange bear-like creatures in the forests surrounding Forks, followed by hikers suddenly disappearing.  While this is going on, Jacob confides in Bella about a small gang that has been forming in La Push, led by Sam Uley.  Sam’s gang leaves Jacob feeling incredibly uneasy, especially when one of Jacob’s friends, Embry, starts hanging around with Sam, despite the fact that Embry had previously disliked Sam even more than Jacob had.
            Anyway, Bella eventually invites Jacob to join her and her friends to see another movie in the city.  After the movie, Jacob makes a vow to Bella that he’d always be there for her, and would never let her down.  However, mere hours after he makes this promise to Bella, he suddenly starts to inexplicably avoid her, even going so far as to ignore her multiple phone calls.  It’s not long before Bella realizes that Jacob has also started hanging out with Sam as well.  Furious at how Sam has seemingly stolen her best friend, she goes down to La Push to confront Jacob.  While she’s there, she has a fight with Jacob, who informs her that they can no longer be friends.
            So now, Bella has not only lost her love and soul mate, Edward, but now she no longer has Jacob to help her cope.  Thankfully, Bella’s newfound anguish does not last long, for the night after their fight, Jacob visits Bella in her room with the use of an amazing display of agility.  After apologizing for breaking his promise to never let her down, he cryptically tells Bella that while he can’t come straight out and explain what’s happened to him, she already knows the truth.  All she needs to do is to put the pieces together.  After Jacob leaves and Bella falls asleep, she ends up dreaming of the day when she first met Jacob at La Push, and how he told her the Quileute legend that helped her realize Edward was a vampire.  As Bella remembers the legend, she recalls that the legend also stated that the ancient Quileutes could turn into wolves.  Once she remembers that part of the legend, Bella instantly realizes the truth: Jacob is a werewolf, and Sam’s ‘gang’ is actually the Quileute werewolf pack.
Now that Bella is in on the secret that surrounds the Quileute tribe of La Push, she is able to determine the truth about the other mysteries that have arisen in the book.  James’ mate, Victoria, has returned to Forks to avenge James’ death in the first book.  Victoria holds Edward responsible for the death of James, and has decided that the best revenge would be to kill Edward’s mate, Bella, in return.  Since vampires are the natural enemy of the Quileute werewolves, Sam, Jacob, and the rest of the pack are doing what they can to stop Victoria.  Once the werewolf pack learns that Bella is the one Victoria is after, it is decided that the safest place for her is on La Push.  She ends up spending all of her free time on the reservation while the werewolf pack continues to hunt for Victoria. 
One day, while Jacob is off with the rest of the pack, Bella is seized by a sudden urge to hear Edward’s voice again and ends up doing something that is undeniably stupid.  Remembering a promise Jacob made to her a long time ago to take her cliff-diving, Bella decides that she doesn’t want to wait for him and attempts the dive herself.  Unfortunately, while she does make the dive successfully, she failed to take into account that the current had become too strong for her, due to a storm that was brewing.  Thankfully, Jacob happened to be near enough at the time and ends up saving Bella from drowning.  However, it turns out someone else had ‘seen’ Bella jump off the cliff.  Edward’s sister, Alice, who has a gift of seeing the future, had a vision of Bella’s jump and concluded that Bella had killed herself.  She returns to Forks to do what she can for Charlie after his only daughter had died, but instead finds out that Bella was alive. 
Bella is overjoyed at seeing Alice again, and Alice agrees to stick around Forks for a while before returning to rejoin her family.  But Alice’s visit is brought to a screeching halt when she has another vision.  This one is of Edward going to Italy to make the Volturi kill him.  His plan to do so involves him stepping out into the sunlight in full view of humans, thereby exposing himself as a vampire, in the Volturi’s home city of Volterra.  The Volturi, as we were told in the beginning of New Moon, serve as the royal family/enforcers of the vampire world.  It’s their job to ensure all vampires obey the rules and keep their existence a secret from the humans.  It turns out that Rosalie, Edward’s other sister, had tracked Edward down and told him about Alice’s vision of Bella’s jump.  Edward, unable to bear the thought that Bella had died, has decided to take a page out of Romeo’s book.   In order to stop Edward’s plan to force the Volturi to kill him, Alice and Bella head off to Italy after him.  Alice and Bella arrive in Voterra with only minutes to spare, but because of the sunlight shining overhead, Alice must remain in shadow.  Thus, only Bella can venture out to the plaza to stop Edward before he can reveal the existence of vampires to the humans in the square.  Bella reaches Edward at the last possible second, not only stopping him from stepping out into the sun, but also showing him that she wasn’t dead after all.  The reunited lovers are not given a chance to properly enjoy their reunion, because some of the Volturi guards appear on the scene to ‘escort’ them to the Volturi’s chambers.  Even though Edward attempts to refuse the ‘invitation,’ he is forced to relent when a small vampire named Jane appears on the scene.  It’s later revealed that Jane possesses a terrifying gift and can inflict the illusion of excruciating pain on anyone who crosses her.
The Volturi guard bring Edward, Bella and Alice before Aro, Caius and Marcus, the three leaders of the Volturi.  Aro displays his intrigue with Bella, who not only is immune to Edward’s mind-reading ability, but also blocks the gifts of Jane and Aro himself.  The vindictive Caius, on the other hand, insists that Bella must die on account of her being a human who knows about the existence of vampires.  It is Alice who grants them a relieve, by showing Aro how her visions indicate that Bella will most certainly become a vampire.  With Alice’s promise, the Volturi allow the three to leave, but not fast enough to keep Bella from witnessing a horde of human tourists being herded into the Volturi’s chambers to satisfy their diet of human blood, a sight that disturbs Bella into near hysterics.
Edward, Bella and Alice leave Italy and take a plane back to Forks, where they are greeted by the rest of the Cullen family.  A few hours after they return Bella back to her home, Bella wakes up from a fitful sleep to find Edward nearby.  As the pair talk, Bella realizes that Edward is still planning to keep Bella human, in spite of the Volturi’s command.  Annoyed by this knowledge, Bella insists on going to see the rest of the Cullens, to ask them to put her humanity to a vote.    Edward reluctantly agrees, and when they arrive at the Cullen’s house, despite Edward trying to come up with an alternative, the majority vote is in favor of Bella becoming a vampire.  Carlisle agrees to change her after she finishes high school, as it would arouse too much suspicion if Bella suddenly disappears while she is still living with Charlie.
As a perturbed Edward brings Bella back home, he manages to get Bella to admit that she’d prefer him to change her into a vampire rather than Carlisle.  After a brief exchange, Edward presents Bella with a compromise.  He will consent to fulfill Bella’s wishes and turn her into a vampire on the condition that she marries him first.  Since Bella had grown up with a deep-rooted reservation to the whole concept of marriage, due in part to her parents divorcing when she was still a baby, Edward’s unorthodox proposal is left hanging.
            This book ends with something of a cliff-hanger.  Victoria is still at large, and, because of the Volturi’s decree, Bella must become a vampire soon, or the entire Cullen family could face death.  To top it all off, in the final pages of New Moon, Jacob reveals that the treaty the Cullens made with the Ancient Quileutes, which prevents the Quileute wolves from attacking the Cullen family, will be broken if the Cullens change a human into a vampire.  And so, the stage is set for Eclipse, the third book in the Twilight series.
            Now, I did enjoy New Moon, especially after re-reading it a few times.  The book earns some major points for all its introductions.  First off, it further builds on Jacob Black’s character.  And the very foundation of his personality is that he truly cares for Bella, so much so that after he becomes a werewolf, he still finds a way to see Bella and let her know what has happened, even though Sam, the pack’s Alpha, has forbidden him to do so.  As we learn later, if the Alpha of the Quileute werewolf pack gives a direct order, the other werewolves are literally unable to disobey it.  By the end of the book, Jacob is probably just as conflicted as Edward.  On the one hand, he genuinely cares for Bella and wants to continue the relationship they developed during Edward’s absence, and even deepen it if he could.  On the other hand, he has a loyalty to the werewolf pack, and therefore, the Cullens are his mortal enemies.  And since Bella has aligned herself with the Cullens, that makes her Jacob’s enemy by association.
            This book is also important for introducing readers to the Volturi.  At this point in the saga, the Volturi come across as a necessary evil.  After all, someone has to keep the vampires of the world in order, right?  Yes, the Volturi member, Jane, is very easy to hate, due to her obvious sadistic nature, and there’s also the fact that the Volturi, collectively, have no reservation in luring innocent humans into their chambers like lambs for the slaughter, but for the most part, they seem to be on the level, so to speak.  However, the next two books in the Twilight saga further build on the Volturi’s true nature, so we begin to see them in a much harsher light.  I’ll go into more about that later.
            Also, like in Twilight, New Moon manages to introduce us to characters that seem like placeholder characters, but actually play a much larger role in the long run.  In Twilight, that character was Jacob Black.  This time, the ‘placeholders’ are the Clearwaters, Leah and Seth.  In New Moon, all we really learn about them is that they’re also Quileutes who live on La Push with their parents, Sue and Harry, and towards the end of the book, Harry has a fatal heart attack.  Once the next book in the saga, Eclipse, came out, we learned a lot more about Leah and Seth, and also that Harry’s heart attack was probably more than the result a cholesterol problem.
            Finally, I can understand why some people might dislike this book because of Edward’s absence throughout most of the book, but his absence is necessary for the story.  Also, while I don’t usually get a kick out of other people’s pain (I am by no means like Jane of the Volturi), there’s still a part of me that enjoys reading about two characters who are so in love, they are deeply wounded by separation.  Interestingly enough, I have seen some criticism about New Moon involving how Bella didn’t just ‘get over it’.  And yet, even though it’s later revealed that Edward was even worse off than her, and had basically ‘curled up in a ball, letting misery take him’, I haven’t seen anyone criticizing him for not ‘getting over it’.  What’s more, I find that how much Bella was left broken and devastated is simply meant to show how deeply entwined she is to Edward.  Contrary to popular belief, we’re not talking about some high school ‘I love you, I love you, too,’ romance.  We’re talking about a vampire and his predestined mate.  In the Twilight universe, the bond between a vampire and his/her mate is a permanent bond that is incapable of being severed.  It’s even stated that vampires not only mate for life, but that if a vampire looses his/her mate, they will either be forever fueled by vengeance (such as is the case with Victoria) or will dwell in eternal misery (like Marcus of the Volturi).  Vampires are incapable of ‘getting over’ a love like that, and as Bella’s behavior indicates, the pull between vampire and mate goes both ways, even if one happens to be human.  (This is further indicated in the back-story of Esme, which is covered in the Twilight Illustrated Guide.  It turns out that Esme actually met Carlisle years before he found her in the morgue after her suicide attempt, which was mentioned in Twilight.  Carlisle left town shortly after their initial meeting, but Esme, despite the fact that she only met Carlisle once, never forgot him and kept comparing all of her suitors to Carlisle.)
Plus, as Bella states straight out during one of her internal monologues, it’s not just loosing Edward that caused her to fall into her depression.  It’s also the loss of the entire Cullen clan, who were practically a second family to her, as well as the future she was envisioning.  Before Edward left, she was sure she’d one day become a vampire, too, and be able to officially join the Cullen family.  But then Edward and the rest of the Cullen family leaves, and all possibility of that future comes crashing down.  Personally, I can’t think of anyone who would ever completely recover if they lost their entire family, AND all their goals and dreams, all on the same day.
            That concludes my review of New Moon.  Be sure to check back soon to see the continuation of Twilight month.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Book Review: Twilight

            As we begin the month of November, I thought I’d do something special.  As most people are probably aware, this is the month when Breaking Dawn Part 2 will make it’s public debut in movie theaters worldwide, therefore officially marking the end of the Twilight movies.  In commemoration of this event, I will use this month to review the Twlight saga in its entirety.  And just to make things clear from the get-go:  Yes, I’m a Twilight fan.  No, I’m not a crazy Twilight fan.  I don’t go around fantasizing about marrying Robert Patterson, wearing my Team Edward/Team Jacob T-shirt.  Ugh.  Don’t get me started on that whole stupid team thing.  Whoever initiated that just needs to be slapped silly.  I’m sorry, but it’s true.  I’ll go into more about why I have such an intense dislike for the team angle later on, but not now.  
            Before I began, I’m going to go into a bit about how I was introduced to this story.  I remember thinking, when I first heard about Twilight, something along the lines of ‘oh, it’s just another vampire story. I don’t wanna read a vampire story.’  Now, I’ve never been that into vampires, and I rarely watched vampire movies.  Up to that point, I’d only watched three movies that primarily featured vampires.  The first was the 1992 movie, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I mainly enjoyed because it was hilarious and a fun flick.  Apart from that, there was Van Helsing with Hugh Jackman and the 1992 version of Bram Stoker's Dracula, the latter I only watched because an old classmate of mine brought it over, and I really didn’t find it very interesting anyway.  So, since I wasn’t all that into vampire stuff, I didn’t really give the Twilight series a second glance.  However, as time went on, I started hearing the public reactions to the books, which were mainly split down the middle.  Some people voiced their hatred for the books while others praised it.  Like fruitcake, you either loved it or hated it. There didn’t seem to be much of a middle ground. 
            Finally, my closest friend started to read the Twilight novels and became obsessed.  This basically convinced me to check them out for myself, because the friend in question had always hated reading.  She’s much better about it now, but at the time, she was not that into books.  In other words, if my friend liked a book, it was probably worth looking at.  I ended up getting the first book in the Twilight saga for my birthday, but I still put off reading it, mostly because I was already in the middle of another book at the time.  Needless to say, when my friend heard I hadn’t even started reading my copy of Twilight, she was quite miffed at me.  Thankfully, my family had a trip planned on the near horizon, and we were supposed to drive across four states to attend my grandfather’s 70th birthday celebration.  I promised myself I would take advantage of the trip to at least start reading Twilight, and finally began the first chapter while waiting around at my aunt’s house for the time of the party.  Well, that proved to be a mistake, because after a while, I could not put it down long enough to really engage in small talk during the party.  In the end, it took me about four days to finish the first book.  It probably would have taken me three, but the sun went down during the car ride back home, so I could no longer read the pages and had to stop for the night.
            So, now that I’ve explained how I got into the book, I suppose it’s time for me to start explaining about the book itself, and why I ended up liking it.  And for the record, these next few reviews will only focus on the books, and not the movies.  Mostly because I’m not willing to go over all the inconsistencies and head-smack moments that exist in the films.  Despite being a Twilight fan, I will admit that the Twilight films do have their flaws, especially the first Twilight movie, which completely botched the whole scene where Edward confesses to being a vampire.  (And don’t get me started on how they left out the blood typing scene, which was one of my personal favorite moments from the first book, and instead gave us this random field trip to some greenhouse, something that never happened at any point in the books.)
Anyway, rambling aside, in the first book’s opening, we’re immediately introduced to 17-year-old Isabella Swan, who prefers to be called Bella.  Now, Bella has lived in the warm, sunny town of Phoenix, Arizona with her mother ever since her parents’ divorce years prior.  Bella’s mother, Renee, from what I can tell, never really grew up and lacked what it took to be a responsible mother-figure to Bella.  This resulted in the roles of mother-and-daughter to be reversed, and for a long time, Bella’s been the one who had to take care of her mother.
As the book opens, we learn that Renee has recently remarried, this time to a minor-league baseball player called Phil.  Phil’s job requires him to travel a lot and Bella, fulfilling her life-long role as caretaker to her immature mother, makes the decision to go live with her father, police chief Charlie, in order to allow Renee to travel with Phil.  Since Twilight is written entirely in Bella’s point-of-view, the reader is left with no question that Bella is not pleased with the idea of living with her father, and I can understand her discontent with her decision.  After living most of her life in sunny Phoenix, starting a new life in the town that Charlie lives in has got to lead to some major culture shock.  Charlie, as we’re told almost immediately after starting Twilight, lives and works in Forks, Washington, a small town in the Olympic Peninsula, which is described as the rainiest place in the continental U.S..  I suppose this could be compared to moving from Florida to Alaska; practically anyone would be reluctant to make such a drastic change.  But Bella has grown accustomed to putting her mother’s needs before her own, so she goes through with the move, albeit reluctantly.
Bella isn’t given much time to settle into her new life with Charlie before being thrown into the mix, because she has to start school the day after her arrival.  At her new school, she’s immediately the center of attention with the other kids.  New students are a rare occurrence at Forks High School, so the addition of Bella is an exciting new novelty, particularly to the male students.  During Bella’s first day, she develops an instant interest in the mysterious Cullens, the foster children of a local doctor and his wife.  The Cullen siblings are all described as being impossibly beautiful with pale white skin, but have clearly been ostracized by most of the other students at the school.  Among the Cullen siblings is Edward Cullen, who turns out to be in Bella’s new Biology class.  However, from the moment they meet in Biology, Edward displays an instant and seemingly unfounded hatred for Bella, and spends the entire class period glaring at her.  Later on, Bella even overhears Edward talking with the school’s receptionist, trying to find a way to get out of their shared Biology class.  When Edward finds that he can’t drop the class, he disappears from school for a period of time, leaving Bella understandably confused and upset over how anyone could hate her so quickly.  Edward reappears at school a week later, and suddenly appears to have warmed up to her.  As if the sudden 180 wasn’t surprising enough, the day after Edward’s return to school, he ends up saving Bella’s life from an out-of-control van in the school parking lot under impossible circumstances, including stopping the van with his bare hands.  After the accident, Bella is determined to find out how Edward managed to save her life.  However, she does not have much luck until she and her school friends visit a local beach.  While there, she meets up with Jacob Black, the son of Charlie’s oldest friend, who lives on the nearby Quileute reservation.  Bella manages to convince Jacob to tell her an old Quileute legend that reveals that the entire Cullen family are actually vampires who feed on the blood of animals instead of humans.
As the story progresses, Bella informs Edward that, even though she knows what he is, she truly does not care, and the pair gradually form a romantic, yet forbidden, relationship.  Unfortunately, the day after they confess their love for one another, a nomadic group of vampires comes to visit the Cullens.  One of the nomadic vampires, James, immediately sets his sights on Bella, with the intention of hunting her for sport.  To keep her safe, Edward is fully prepared to take Bella as far away from Forks as possible, but in the end, it’s decided that the Cullens will go with a plan that Bella comes up with.  While the rest of the Cullens lead James on a wild goose chase by creating a false trail, Bella heads off to Phoenix in order to hide in plain sight, with Alice and Jasper accompanying her for additional protection.  Unfortunately, the plan goes awry when James finds a way to outsmart them and makes a secret phone call to Bella, telling her that he’s holding her mother, Renee, hostage.  Bella, not willing to allow her mother to die for her, gives herself up to James, realizing too late that James was only bluffing.  Right when James is about to kill Bella, Edward, who realized what Bella had done, catches up with them with his family in tow, arriving just in time to save Bella’s life.
In the aftermath of James’ attack, in which Bella’s injuries slowly heal, Edward and Bella begin to confront a vital issue in their relationship: their future together.  While Edward is adamant about Bella living out her life as a mortal human, Bella wishes to become a vampire as well, so she can remain with Edward forever.  The first book ends with them both tentatively agreeing to postpone the issue for the time being, despite knowing that neither one is willing to change their mind.
So, you’re probably asking yourself now why I liked this book to begin with.  Well, I admit that this book may not be for everyone, but if you, like me, are a sucker for stories filled with romantic interactions, then chances are you will enjoy it, because the scenes between Edward and Bella in the second half of the book are so romantic and sweet, I can just melt reading about them.  Bear in mind that I am far from a fangirl who will squee and swoon over a good-looking, smooth-talking guy, either real or fictional, but if I ever found a guy who would say half those things to me while still being genuine about it, I’d never let him out of my sight.  In addition, the book gains a few points in my book for the gradual progression that leads to the romance.  Edward and Bella don’t immediately start off as a couple, and spend a few chapters at odds with one another.  Yet, even under their animosity, you can still see their growing attraction.  And that is one of my favorite romantic scenarios, in which the two spend a while circling around one another while slowly coming closer.  Nothing turns me off a story like the immediate ‘Hi!  You’re cute.  I love you.’ type of romance.  Needless to say, that’s one of the reasons why I dislike such fairy tales as Snow White and Cinderella.
Something that’s good to keep in mind, however, is that Stephenie Meyer goes against all the long-accepted vampire lore for the vampires in her novels.  In the Twilight universe, all those stories about vampires disintegrating in the sunlight and sleeping in coffins during the day are nothing more than myths.  No, vampires in the Twilight saga actually lack the ability to sleep, and while they are unharmed by sunlight, they still have to avoid it in public.  The reason for this is that direct sunlight makes vampire skin sparkle, as if diamonds were embedded in their bodies.  Personally, I think that this is what turned many people off, because they found the whole concept of ‘sparkly vamps’ laughable.  But I say the only concrete law about vampires in literature is that they’re required to live off blood.  Vampires are fictional creatures, so apart from the whole blood-drinking thing, you can pretty much do whatever you want with them.  (It probably doesn’t hurt that S.M. actually tried to give a physiological reason why vampire skin shines in the sun.  Can anyone find an actual explanation as to why traditional vampires burn to a crisp in daylight? ‘Cause I’ve never heard of one.)  Besides, if all literary vampires stayed true to the original source material, they’d probably all look something like Nosferatu, and all vampire romance novels would turn into some sort of Phantom of the Opera knockoff.
Now, on to the characters themselves.  I acknowledge that there’s a lot of hate for Bella, who some accuse of not having any redeeming qualities, but I don’t agree with that assessment.  The books are written in Bella’s point of view, so we see her as she sees herself.  Frankly, Bella doesn’t seem to see herself as a person worth mentioning. She doesn’t spend a lot of time analyzing herself, so we’re probably not expected to see her as a unique, well-developed character right off the bat.  Also, she apparently suffers from some deep-rooted self-esteem issues, which appear to last through most of the Twilight saga.  So with her, we’re required to read between the lines.  For example, in multiple times within the saga, whenever some danger arises that threatens her life, she spends most of her time only worrying about the ones who are able to protect her from said danger.  Take the ordeal with James within the first book: instead of getting scared by the fact that a sadistic vampire is after her blood, she constantly worries about something happening to Edward and the rest of the Cullen clan as they attempt to take James down, indicating that she values the lives of her loved ones more than she values her own.
As for Edward, he’s fueled by complexity and turmoil.  Before meeting Bella, he had a near-century worth of practice in resisting human blood, so he has very little difficulty in being around the human students at the school.  In addition, because of his ability to read the minds of the people around him, he has grown rather jaded with life, particularly when the majority of the humans around him are predictable and oftentimes shallow and self-centered.  But then he meets Bella, whose blood smells far more appealing to him than the blood of other humans, something that threatens to be his downfall.  However, no matter how hard he tries, he cannot ‘hear’ any of Bella thoughts.  Intrigued by the mystery of her silent mind, Edward places all his self-control into resisting the smell of Bella’s blood in an attempt to figure out a way to unravel the mystery that keeps Bella’s thoughts a secret from him.  As time goes on, his growing love for Bella helps strengthen that self-control, preventing him from feeding on her blood.  At the same time, that same love presents him with another problem that’s probably just as serious.  Because of his nature as a vampire, he knows that Bella’s life would be in danger if he acted on his feelings for her.  This knowledge is intensified by the fact that, like Bella, he also suffers from a multitude of self-esteem issues, which leads him into hating his own existence on a number of occasions.  For all these reasons, he’s constantly fighting with himself, trying to force himself to keep Bella at arms length in order to protect her from himself, even while he knows that not being with her will figuratively kill him.  Once he finds out that Bella knows what he is and doesn’t even care, his inner turmoil becomes even more complex, as he’s now elated and horrified at the same time.
Most of the other characters in the book are only secondary characters, and are basically flat and one-dimensional.  Sadly, we don’t learn much about the other members of the Cullen family in the first book, apart from the personal past of the Cullen family’s founder, Carlisle, but that’s remedied later on in the series.  Bella’s dad, Charlie, seems to be an okay guy, but like his ex-wife, Renee, he doesn’t seem to be very good at being a father-figure for Bella.  While we do see how much he cares for his daughter at some points, such as in the aftermath of the accident that almost takes Bella’s life in the beginning of the book, Charlie spends most of his time outside of work either fishing or watching some game on TV.  At this point in the Twilight saga, Charlie is, more or less, the dopey dad.  Bella’s classmates each seem to fill in different stereotypical roles as well.  For example, the character Mike is the clueless suitor who mistakes the kindness of the main female for mutual interest.  Lauren is the typical stuck-up snob who immediately hates Bella right off the bat just for being instantly popular with the rest of the student body.  Jessica is the fair-weather friend who immediately chums up to Bella, but can’t always hide the falseness behind the friendship, especially when Edward begins to act on his growing feelings for Bella.  The last of the main group of secondary characters is Angela, who is the personification of the true friend.  Throughout the book, and the series, she’s probably the only one of Bella’s mortal friends who is able to notice and understand Bella’s true moods and feelings.
The last of the characters we meet in Twilight who don’t just serve as background/placeholder characters is Jacob Black, Bella’s Quileute friend.  By the end of the book, it just seems as if Jacob is the basic friend of the family with a schoolboy crush on Bella, and that his only true role was providing Bella with the vital clue to Edward’s true identity.  And in this first book in the Twilight saga, that pretty much is Jacob’s role.  However, Jacob plays a much bigger part in the remainder of the series.  I’ll go into that a bit more in my review of New Moon.
Finally, there’s the book’s structure itself, as well as the author.  I don’t claim to be a professor of literature or anything like that.  I don’t typically go around analyzing the books I read to death.  I read books for the stories they tell.  On the other hand, I admit that Stephenie Meyer’s name might not one day be included among the authors whose books have survived the test of time, (Shakespeare,  Hans Christian Andersen and Mark Twain to name a few) but whoever said that it had to be?  Not every book has to be a classic piece of literature.  Personally, I think she told a pretty good story.  I don’t see why it should matter that the books are fairly easy to read, and that the hardest word in the first book is ‘irrevocably,’ a word I can’t recall coming across before reading Twilight.  If I wanted to read a book with words I didn’t recognize, I’d probably be reading something like David Copperfield or Little Women.  And yes, I do recall seeing at least one typo while reading Twilight, but the woman is human.  Humans make mistakes.  That’s why we invented the eraser.
In closing, Twilight may not be a good book for everyone.  I’ve seen quite a few people say that the Twilight saga is aimed at young tween girls, and I can see where those people come from.  But if you enjoy reading books with romance in it, then you might want to give Twilight a chance, because as long as you go in with an open mind, you may just end up liking it, too.