Book review: Out of Breath, by Blair Richmond  »

I love books! Lucky me, Ashland Creek Press recently sent me Out of Breath, which is a novel by “Blair Richmond” about runners, vegans, and vampires living in the Pacific Northwest.

This is the second first-of-a-series novel about vegans and vampires that we’ve come across; recall Merlene Alicia Vassal’s The Vampire and the Vegan, which Jenny reviewed back in May. I think Out of Breath is the superior work; there’s no grody “love-making” and the characters are all clearly drawn.

I love a teen novel almost as much as I love a teen television dramedy, which is to say, passionately, but Out of Breath had difficulty balancing its message with its plot, so I feel like a lot of the hilarity was unintentional. Maybe I’m not the ideal audience, who I think is actually a teen-novel reader who is vegetarian and/or hasn’t considered a vegan lifestyle before. The “why veganism is really the only choice” arguments are compelling, but not very deftly incorporated into the plot. The action would be zipping along—I read the 263 pages in about an hour—and then our hero, Kat, would drop a big old paragraph of “Meat Is Murder” on us, like, way to ruin the mood, lady.

The plot is rather formulaic, but although Richmond telegraphs the twist before it comes, you won’t guess its scope until the author drops it on you, and it’s pretty good. I laughed with disbelief and appreciation for the shocking ridiculousness of it. Don’t take that the wrong away: It’s AMAZING; it’s silly and it’s weightless and soap operatic and wonderful. I mean: It’s set in a town called Lithia, and everyone’s supposed to be happy because THERE’S NATURALLY OCCURRING LITHIUM IN THE WATER. So much wtfuckery! You will probably love it.

Despite its heavy-handed deployment, the vegan message is refreshing to read. Better “Don’t eat animal products” than “alcohol/drugs/premarital sex KILLS,” by a million; at least the information is truthful and useful, and might positively influence the young readers of Out of Breath. Presumably. I wouldn’t argue that any one YA novel would have measurable impact on even the most impressionable readers, but as part of a series of pro-vegan novels, it could make a positive difference. I realize this is the same sort of thing that evangelists of all beliefs say about their niche literature, but unlike the Left Behind people, vegans are actually right, and I know that begs the question but shut up it’s true and you know it.

If you want to read the book—and believe me, you do—the Kindle version of Out of Breath is on sale for $2.99 throughout the month of October. That is cheap! Ashland Press will also hold an online book-release party on Oct. 31, which will involve an author Q&A, giveaways, and tips and tricks for vegan trick-or-treating. Because “Blair Richmond” is a pseudonym, the author won’t make any physical appearances to promote the book, so this internet party will be your sole chance to interact with this person. I recommend you drop the three bucks, read Out of Breath, and visit the Halloween party to ask the questions you will doubtless have about it afterward. Actually, read it while eating some vegan Halloween candy. It’s like a vegan marshmallow in literary form, anyway: you love it while you’ve got it, though the enjoyment is fleeting, but it’s better for you (and the animals!) than the standard fare.

Thanks so much to Ashland Press for sending me a review copy of Out of Breath. I really enjoyed it!


Book review: The Vampire and the Vegan, Book l: Food  »


Jeez, it’s like I’m in grade school all over again with my book report, but without all the blacking out and forgetting to breathe due to a very real fear of public speaking. Fuck, just talking in general is sometimes too much for me to handle. Fortunately for me, my social anxiety meds come over the counter in the somewhat inexpensive form of PBR vitamins and exercise.

All right, let’s do this so I can get back to watching Twilight VERY IMPORTANT other things I have to do! The Vampire and the Vegan is by first-time novelist Merlene Alicia Vassall. Her writing style is fast-paced and easy to read, yet she is a writer that spoon-feeds! I always get the impression authors who do this have no faith in their readers to remember any details, so they must keep repeating themselves over and over and over again. I dislike it immensely. I WANT STRONG CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT! I WANT MYSTERY!

The Vampire and the Vegan takes place in Washington, D.C., through the eyes of a vampire named Pearl. I wish I could give you some background into her character, but there isn’t much. It seems her (undead?) life revolves around her dinners, which consist of men hoping to get lucky with her. Pearl chooses her victims based on their “necromantic energy,” which lingers in their bodies from the animals that they eat—the more horrifying and hideous the death/slaughter of the meat consumed, the more appealing the energy is to her. Pearl can actually visualize, while feeding on these men, the deaths of the animals they have eaten in their lifetime. This is where Vassell shines as a writer, illustrating in very descriptive terms the inhumane and terrifying ways that factory-farmed animals (even a lobster in a tank) are treated and killed. When it comes to veganism, Vassell can intellectualize it! Unfortunately, that makes parts of this book read more like a “Why Vegan?” pamphlet than a novel.

When Pearl meets her neighbor Salaam, he invites her up to his apartment to share his Thai take-out, which happens to be…VEGAN! She begrudgingly joins him, all the time wondering why she doesn’t want to make him dinner, but—OH! his body isn’t saturated with the “necromantic energy” she so craves. Tofu just doesn’t do it for her—I get it Pearl, I’m a seitan girl myself.

Soon enough, Pearl and Salaam become friends, as Pearl lives a very lonely, isolated life. Salaam begins to teach her everything there is to know about being vegan! She feels so guilty as she keeps consuming human animals!

This book got pretty good reviews on Amazon, and from watching this video featuring Vassar, I have to admit I like her. I just don’t think horror/fiction is the right genre for her. The book is not scary, not funny, the sexy times are neither hot nor sexy (maybe because the term “making love” totally freaks me out), the characters are pretty one-dimensional and there is NO VAMPIRE LORE, traditional or made-up (Stephanie Meyer, I’m talking about you and your “vegetarian” vampires). Vassar’s background is in grant-writing, and I feel it shows in her writing style. She’s excellent at addressing the hows and whys surrounding veganism—describing the slaughters, espousing nutritional information and explaining how to live the lifestyle. Unfortunately, she falls short at transforming and flowing that knowledge into a work of fiction.

Even though I didn’t particularly like this book, I still want to applaud Vassel for finding a new and creative way of addressing and promoting veganism. According to most of the reviews on Amazon, her readers want to stop consuming as much meat, even abstain altogether. That, my friends, is a job well done! Admittedly, when I’m drunk on PBR the wonders of vitamins and exercise, I do things like judge a book by its title. In this case I was hoping for a work of camp-filled horror or lust, ideally BOTH. I’m not going to lie to you, I’ve seen every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, more than once (culty, not campy—yo, I know my horror genres). Don’t take my word for it, I’ve got an R. Patz calendar hanging by my bed. (My bed covered in Twilight sheets from Hot Topic! JK, I have no idea if Hot Topic carries Twilight sheets. I’m also not almost 30 and sleep in a twin bed. Covered in Edward Cullen sheets.)

Vegansaurus got a hold of this book for free. I don’t know how, Laura sent it to me. If you are a single, hot male I will give you my addy as well. J/K, I’m holding out for Robert Pattinson.

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