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Ms. R. A. Bennett "raven_moon36" (UK)

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Vampire Diaries: The Return: The Shadow Souls
Vampire Diaries: The Return: The Shadow Souls
by L. J. Smith
Edition: Hardcover

43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, yet lacking something..., 8 April 2010
Like many others who have reviewed, the original series of books were a big part of my early teen years and, along with some others, such as Anne Rice, really helped cultivate my love for Vampire related books.

I actually quite enjoyed Nightfall. I re-read the original four books before reading it, and found Nightfall much more enjoyable as an adult. But it was rather strange and disjointed, and whilst Shadow Souls is a bit more coherent, it still has a similar vibe.

Shadow Souls starts where Nightfall ended, with Damon, Elena and Matt off on their mission to go to the 'Dark Dimension' to solve the riddle to find the key to free Stefan.

I appear to be in the minority, but I find the strange world filled with mixtures of myths and folklore that L.J Smith has tried to create quite interesting and intriguing. But something does just seem to be off with it. It's almost as if she just picked random parts of folk lore out she liked and decided to mash them all together, and what comes out doesn't always work. If time had been spent by the author carefully constructing this alternate world that bled through to the 'real world' in Nightfall, and is fully explored by Elena and co. in Shadow Souls, then I think this new trilogy could have been highly successful.

What saves this book I think is the character Damon. Like Anne Rice and her love for her character Lestat, L.J Smith seems to write Damon the most successfully and he is a very intriguing and interesting character.

The trouble with the type of character archetype Damon is, is that it is hard to make him not loose his edge. And there are moments where he comes close in this book. However, the best moments in the book involve him as well. In the book he seems the only character who isn't a bit of a parody.

Whilst I do love the original books, I don't ever think the characters were very well written, with the exception of Damon, so maybe this is why Nightfall and Shadow Souls don't seem to make me as angry as some of the other fans of the original books, because Damon is actually more of a focus in the new books, and a more well rounded character.

Elena, what to say about Elena. I don't think she has ever been a particularly sympathetic character to be honest, she's always been the perfect 'angel' type of character who everyone loves and admires, and just as this aspect has always put me off Stefan even as a 13 year old many years ago, it can't help but still put me off her. The author had a real chance to add some depth to her character in this novel with her growing feelings for Damon, and to be honest some of the best moments in this book are the Elena/Damon moments, but it just isn't explored in any depth or with any real emotion.

Love triangles, if done well, can be very interesting, and if Elena showed any real turmoil over the fact that while her 'one true love' Stefan is locked up she finds herself continually locked in embraces, kisses and general blood sucking with his brother, then the book would have been more believable. Yet no one seems to see it as an issue, even Stefan by the sounds of it, because apparently Elena loves Stefan so much.

Again, the only person who reacts in a believable and interesting manner about the situation is Damon who at many points in the books struggles to resist Elena in his desire not only for her blood, but as a 'man desires a woman.' When moments between them do happen, how much it effects him are the only real moments of love or passion expressed throughout the whole book, no matter how many time Stefan calls Elena 'angel' or she writes about how much she loves him. There are the beginnings of some steamy moments between Elena and Damon, but due to the target audience of the books it never really goes anywhere apart from one time, where it is abruptly cut off an you never know what really happens between them.

Essentially, if you are a fan of Damon's character you will like this book regardless of whether you like him paired with Elena or not, because these new books really are more focused on him. I wonder if many of the negative reviews are because this book has very little Stefan/Elena and even if it was when some reviewers were young and originally read the series, wanted Elena with Stefan.

These books are aimed at teenagers and not even older teenagers, as there is no real adult themes explored at all, unlike some of the other Vampire romance novels aimed at teens since Twilight. I think when reading this new series it is important to remember that and it might make you enjoy it more, and whilst there is some superb vampire literature written for teens these days (and no I don't count Twilight in that group) this isn't one of them, and in my opinion, the series never was, but nonetheless is entertaining and kept me gripped the whole way through despite the wasted potential to make this new trilogy excellent.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 3, 2012 12:09 PM BST

The Forest of Hands and Teeth
The Forest of Hands and Teeth
by Carrie Ryan
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gritty, gripping and compelling, not your average young adult book, 12 Oct 2009
I am lucky enough to teach at a school with an amazing library which regularly buys in new books, and I picked up The Forest of Hands and Teeth from there, as it is always good to be able to recommend good young adult books to my students.

The blurb leaves you not really having much of an idea of what the actual book is about, so I went into reading it not having any idea what to expect. I was very pleasantly surprised.

The novel centers around Mary, a teenage girl who lives in a town surrounded by a fence that no one is allowed to breach, apart from the Guardians, or the men who are appointed to keep them safe. But all through her short life Mary has wanted more, has believed in more, and what holds especially strong for her is that her village cannot be the only one left in the world, a world ravaged by the Unconsecrated, dead bodies come back to life, who constantly throw their bodies against the fence in a desperate hope of getting in.

When tragedy strikes Mary early on in the novel it sets her on a path which ultimately saves or destroys her, we are left to make our own minds up at the end of the novel on whether Mary made the right choices.

There is a constant sense of horror, danger and desperation throughout this novel, the tense atmosphere grabs you from the first few pages and does not relent throughout. As an adult and a lover of horror, I still found the tension in parts of the novel unbearable at time and actually found myself scanning ahead to see how the situation resolves because I couldn't bare it!

The author seems to have found the best of both worlds with this book, the language is simple enough and not too dense and wordy to put young adults or teenagers off by making it overly complicated to read, but at the same time really creates a gripping and compelling story that even as an adult I can enjoy and delve into.

If I had to criticize anything, it would be the characterisation. Mary is an excellent character, especially as she is a strong, young female character, who's bravery is astonishing and although she is madly in love, it is not what defines her character as in many horror teen romance novels that are being published at the moment. However, the other characters are not really as fleshed out as Mary, and as a result, as a reader you don;t feel for them as much as you do Mary. This has a lot to do with the first person narration and the fact that, on one level, Mary is quite a selfish character who is very involved with this desperate hope she has for more outside of the world she has grown up in. This seems to taint everything in the novel, even her relationships with the other characters.

In summary, whether you are a young adult or a teenager, this book will utterly grip you throughout, I highly recommend it for any fans of the genre looking for something with some grit and originality.

Nightfall: 1 (Vampire Diaries: The Return)
Nightfall: 1 (Vampire Diaries: The Return)
by L. J. Smith
Edition: Hardcover

59 of 59 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very strange, but highly enjoyable, 18 Sep 2009
I was obsessed with these books at a young teenager. They were one of the first vampire series I read and were the start of what was, and still is a huge love of mine: vampire fiction.

I recently re-read the first three books and while I enjoyed them for the sake of posterity, I found them to be slightly juvenile, partly in the writing, but mostly in the characterisation.

Don't get me wrong, I loved these books as a teenager along with The Secret Circle series and have recently got them all in the library in the school where I work as an English teacher and am always recommending them to my students, but as an adult they weren't something that gripped me particularly.

That is where this book differed, I was actually really drawn in to the characters this time, especially Damon and Elena.

I also think that the whole feel was much darker and more adult than the rest of the books, for example, the idea of vampires being sexual beings is kind of skirted over in the original books, due to the age range that they were aimed at. But that is a theme which is explored in more detail in these books, both with spirit Elena and Stefan's exchange, as well as Damon's growing desire not just for her blood, but his desire for her as a woman.

This book also had a more grown up and mature version of Elena in many parts, who has begun to embrace her darker side and do what needs to be done, even if it is something that will degrade her or go against her conscience. This was a refreshing change from the puritanical girl we saw before.

I also think the large focus on Damon's character is a huge plus for this book. The whole depressed moody vampire who hates what he is was bored and overdone even before Edward Cullen exploded onto the scene, and Damon's character is a refreshing change. Yes, in places he gets a bit soppy, but the reasons behind it are in character and it is nice to see the depth in his character in this book.

If your idea of an interesting vampire is more Lestat or even Eric from the Sookie Stackhouse novels, then you will love Damon.

Also, I always found Stefan kind of uninteresting, so the book benefits with him being absent for a lot of it.

Matt, Bonnie, Meredith and Caroline's characters are pretty much the same, thought Bonnie and Damon's encounters are amusing.

A lot of reviews have spoken negatively about the plot and the bizarre nature of a lot of what happens in the book, but for me it is this which made the book really engaging and unusual. The vampire genre is so saturated with the same old thing it was actually really gratifying to read something relatively unpredictable and bizarre, as well as within it's own mythology.

The only negative thing I have to say from my own perspective is that there is a point in the book where the secondary characters (Matt, Bonnie, Meredith) are running from one disaster to another in a row with nothing in between, which gets slightly silly, and that this often takes away from the dual narrative of what is happening with Elena and Damon (which in my opinion was more interesting) but that is quite minor and maybe just my preference.

In closing, if you liked or loved the original series as a child or as an adult then I would recommend the newest edition to you, but be prepared for not loads of Stefan if he was your favourite, much darker themes and a lot of random supernatural occurrences.

Personally, as an adult, this book is by far my favourite one.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 2, 2012 9:22 AM BST

by Robin McKinley
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.28

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievably refreshing take on the vampire genre, 8 Oct 2008
This review is from: Sunshine (Paperback)
I have always been since my early years, a devoted fan of vampire fiction. I love it so much I wrote my university dissertaion on the figure of the vampire in classic and modern literature.

For me, no vampire book has ever been able to come close to Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles. I am an avid fan of Laurel K Hamilton's Anita Blake novels (until they desended into badly written repetitive erotica anyway)as well as Charline Harris, but I see them as entertainment to feed my vampire induced obsession, rather than something to be treasured and appreciated as fine works of literature.

Sunshine blew me away and is the most compelling vampire novel I have read for a long time, possibly even the best I have read since The Chronicles.

The figure of the vampire has lost is essence in most modern vampire novels. Gone is the misique, the danger, that sense of being in the presence of something that isn't a part of your world, doesn't think or behave like a human. Instead it is replaced by long haired men who meet that special girl and change for them, essentially becoming people who have the misfortune of having to drink blood to live, and are usually very good in bed. Now, while these types of vampires have their purpose and are entertaining they have become saturated in a genre that is full of mediocre writers with unoriginal ideas.

Sunshine is very hard to describe, for me its untangible quality is what made is so compelling. Sunshine is the nickname of Rae Seddon, formally Raven Blaise, the daughter of Onyx Blaise, a powerful magic handler. When her parents divorced when she was young, she became "her mothers daughter" as she describes it, and leaves her father, and his world and abilities behind her.

Immersing herself in the bakery her Mum's new husband Charlie owns, Sunshine finds an affinity for baking and she fills her life with it, as if she is a filling a void where something else should dwell.

Turns out this void she tries to fill is her affinity and inheritance of magic handling powers, from her fathers side of the family.

This comes in handy when one night she is captured by a group of vampires, taken to a decaying mansion and shackled to the wall as a fresh, live meal. Turns out the vampire she was the intended victim or temptation for is a prisoner too, shakled to the wall opposite.

After an instant, yet bizarely founded alliance forms between Sunshine and the vampire prisoner, named 'Constantine' when she manages to harness her latent abilities for the first time to transform her pocket knife to a key and rescue them both.

Sunshine's decision to save the vampire changes her world and his, whether for better or for worse is still to be decided, even at the end of the book.

Several things make this book amazing. Sunshine is a truly fleshed out and believable character and the first person narration just makes her more interesting. I have seen some reviewers complain about the constant references to her baking, but this just adds to the way you get drawn into Sunshine's world and her experiences and you realise why she is so immersed and obsessed with this as the book progresses and you see how empty her life is apart from her baking.

Constantine. We find so little out about this vampire in the book, which is both a good and a bad thing because he remains a compelling mystery which makes you yearn for more information. Gone is the pale white ivory skin, full pouting lips and shining hair of most vampires you read about and it is replaced by skin the colour of mushrooms and a otherwordly and supernatural way of moving, speaking, laughing giving you the impression that he truly is an alien creature, who may be similar to humans in some appearneces only.

Yet the bond that forms between Constantine and Sunshine is one of the main things that makes this book so mesmerising. There is a contsant undercurrent of fear, mainly from Sunshine but with moments from Con, showing that just maybe, his bond to Sunshine unnerves him. However, along with this is a compulsion to be in each others company, an attraction that is romantic and even sexual in nature in some ways, but more reflective of our obsession with the unknown, our obsession of the darkness or light, in the case of Con.

There is so much more to say about this book, the world in which it is set is like yet unlike our own, set in no particular time the world is recovering from the mysterious 'Voodoo Wars' trying to accept, yet ignore that strange creatures the humans know inhabit their world, creatures from myths and legends...

I have seen complaints that this books cried out for a sequel, and I have to admit that after just finshing the book today I came onto this website to search for one and was disapointed not to find it. However, the ending is perfect and in many ways a sequel could spoil it, as the wealth of information we are given but is not elaborated on in the book is another reason it was so compelling for me.

This is a book that requires you to use your mind, your imagination to fill in the gaps and take whatever message you may find. I am a secondary school English teacher and I would be more than happy to read and analyse this book in my classes for many of its attributes.

I highly recommend this book to anyone, especially those who like me, adore the genre, but just need something different to remind why it is we adore vampires and everything they represent in the first place. This books invigorated my love for the genre and I love it for this.

Incubus Dreams: Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter: Volume 12: An Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Novel
Incubus Dreams: Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter: Volume 12: An Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Novel
by Laurell K. Hamilton
Edition: Paperback

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Why Miss hamilton???, 29 Nov 2004
I can't decided whether i hate this book or not. I am an avid fan of the seris and it has to be my favourite, even more than *gasp* the fabulous anne rice! However, I felt really let down by this book, though I wasn't really suprised by it. Firstly, as many people have said, what is the deal with all the sex? I mean it really is just getting silly now and I think the previous two books really treaded the balance between the sex and the action whereas this one just tips it all over the edge. Also, what about poor jean-Claude? Miss hamiltion spent 6 books building this wonderful magnetism between the two of them and when anita finally gave in I was glad and the sex scene was brilliantly done, but since that book I think it has all gone downhill, apart from maybe book 9 where she goes to mexico with edward. Now he barely features in this book, Anita is to busy shagging anything with a pulse, including two new vampire characters introduced for no other purpose than screwing her apparently. he was blatently the best character in the book, other than anita, and I know is one of the most poular, yet he is just pushed to the sidelines and only gets a call when anita needs information apparently. One good point in the book is the character development as it has always been one of the strong point in all the books and as a reader you genuinely feel for them, which is why it is so fraustrating when all they do it shag each other all the time. Also what is the deal with a second triumviate with nathaniel and damien, thats just confussing and taking it too far I think. I honustly cannot see where these books can possibly go, Anita now appently 'loves' 3 people, and has a harem of men to pick from when the arduer happens to arrise (like every 5 mins or so. Infact I don't see why the author doesn't just doesn't start writing for porn movies or something because it is what these books are very quickly turning into. I am also sick of the whining, everyone seems to have sooo many issues, and the only way of resolving them is, again, to have sex.
The very small plot line is interesting, which makes it even more fraustrating, a new very powerful vampire is introduced although we don't get to meet him yet and what little action there is, is as always good.
All in all to sum up my ramblings, this book is very confusing to someone who has followed the books because it is hard to see how such a good and original idea could have turned out as a soft (or not so soft) porn novel. However, to a fan of the books i would recommend it because, quite frankly if you love the books its worth reading, but I think it says alot that it is the only book I dont really have a desire to re-read as I have with all the rest. If you are new to the series i can only recommend that you start from book one and see how far you get.
In closing I do wonder what Miss Hamilton was thinking when she wrote this installment, and I hope it was something she had to get out of her system and the books will take a drastic route back to being about a kick arse woman and not about some silly hoe who can't keep her trousers on. Lets also hope that Anita makes some decisions for once and at least halves the number of men she chooses to have relationships with, because i just can't keep track anymore. Oh, and lets also hope she kicks richard sorry arse out of her bed (what was she thinking!)and that he crawls into the hole that he deserves ;)

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