TV Review – The Vampire Diaries, Season #1

The-Vampire-Diaries-Season-1

Source: Wikipedia

 

Seventeen-year-old Elena Gilbert is still reeling from the loss of her parents in a car accident four months prior to the beginning of the show. She lives in the small town of Mystic Falls in Virginia with her younger brother Jeremy and their aunt and guardian, Jenna. The new school year starts and Elena and her two best friends, Bonnie and Caroline, meet the new boy at school, Stefan, who turns out to be a vampire. The storyline mostly follows Elena, Stefan, and Stefan’s mysterious older brother Damon, as well as a secret town council, made up the founding families, that somehow knows about vampires and seeks to rid Mystic Falls of them.

 

This television series is based on the book series of the same name written by L. J. Smith. I will readily admit I have not read them. Because everyone told me the writing was really terrible. Also, I had already seen the first season of the show at that point and knowing it wasn’t going to be as good made me just not want to go there and potentially ruin something beautiful. Because I consider what the writer has written to be cannon and any adaptations secondary, and I really want this TV show to be my cannon for this series.

This is a rewatch for me, but since I binged it the first time, I couldn’t remember where the first season ended and the second season began. This, my friends, is an excellent show and probably not appropriate for teenagers with the amount of illegal substances, underage drinking, and hooking up going on without anyone’s parents seeming to care overly much as long as they don’t see it personally. Not that that stopped me from watching it in 2009 when it premiered and I was a seventeen-year-old senior in high school. That said, Elena and pals are juniors, not seniors.

Being that this season takes place from 2009-2010, the music is super nostalgic for me. A lot of it is what I listened to during that time, and the tunes I didn’t recognize the first watch through I noticed now because they were songs I loved in college that hadn’t quite found me yet in high school. I also quite enjoyed the references to TwilightThe X-Files, and How I Met Your Mother, amongst others. The CW, like MTV, has a habit of picking attractive actors and actresses to fill their roles, though the CW doesn’t usually go over the top like MTV tends to. In this case, they played it right down the line and it worked out exceptionally well. While we had quite a few one-off characters, the season felt really full.

My favorite parts of the season might be the flashback scenes. Because we’re dealing with the eternally dead-yet-alive, the writers were able to jump into the past and show us bits of American history through the eyes of Stefan and Damon. I happen to know from experience that the flashbacks only get even better from here.

We got 22 45-minute episodes, and the first 6-7 mostly deal with getting to know the characters and setting up the layout of the town for the rest of the show. This was done really quite well. The remaining 15 episodes are composed of a mix of plots, furthering the basic character back story bits while also allowing room for a ‘big bad’. In this case, a bunch of scary vampires from the past show up and try to murder everyone. The season ends by wrapping up the season one big bad and hinting at the bad things to come in season two. If season one could be called “Let’s get to know everyone and hope not too many people close to our characters die”, then season two will probably end up being called “Feelings suck”.

 

Since this is season one, I won’t share any spoilers. Starting with season two, however, I’ll be referencing things from previous seasons, so don’t read them if you don’t want the plot spoiled!

 

And since this is of the utmost importance, I’m going to keep a tally of which team I’m on as far as ‘ships’ go in this series (Only the obvious one this time, though. No spoilers!):

The first time I watched this show, I was hardcore Team Stefan. Having watched other seasons I am now biased, obviously, but rewatching this season allowed me to see all the little manipulative things Stefan is doing while not actually realizing he is doing them. You would think that after 150+ years on this Earth he would know better, but, alas, he does not. So, this time around, I am wholeheartedly Team Damon. And I have no regrets.

 

Favorite Episode: Episode 19 – Miss Mystic Falls

 

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

 

Life and Death (Twilight, #1.75) – Stephenie Meyer

life-and-death-stephenie-meyerSource: Goodreads

Beaufort Swan has spent his whole life being a grown up, and he’s tired of it. His mom is finally set to get remarried, and his new stepdad wants to move the family from Arizona to Florida. Beau, recognizing that everything is already about to change, makes the decision to move in with his biological father in Washington state. His mom has someone to take care of her, and Beau will have a chance at being a normal high school junior.

Getting used to the never ending rain of Forks Township soon becomes the least of Beau’s worries, while making new friends and trying to figure out why his perfect-in-every-way lab partner seems to hate his guts quickly take priority, but some of the answers could cost him everything.

 

Stephenie Meyer celebrates the 10th anniversary of the first Twilight book by gender swapping and rewriting it. Many have even speculated that she did it because everyone complained so much about how the original Edward used and abused Bella, and she wanted to show that it had nothing to do with their genders, but with the fact that one of them was a vampire and one of them was a human. Life and Death was originally released with Twilight, packaged together as a 10th-anniversary edition. I didn’t really feel the need to own another copy of the first book, so I waited until Life and Death was released independently. I picked up a paperback copy at my local Barnes & Noble for about $10.

It was a little slow at the beginning, and I also had a hard time figuring out who was who, having read the books and seen the movies nearly six years ago now. As far the Twilight craze went, I was a bandwagoner. My friend Christine read the books as they came out and was really surprised when the craziness appeared out of nowhere just before the final book, Breaking Dawn was released and the first Twilight movie was announced. I remember the books sweeping through our Catholic high school like wildfire, just as The Hunger Games would do three years later. Suddenly everyone had read the books, and vampires were the cooler than The Jonas Brothers. But I digress.

Life and Death gender swaps everyone, even minor background characters, except for Charlie and Rene, Bella/Beau’s parents, because at the time of his/her birth, it would have been very unlikely for the father to get full custody, so it wouldn’t make logical sense for Beau to be moving to Forks to stay with a mom who should have had custody all along. Everyone’s names start with the same letter as their old name, in an attempt to make it easier to figure out who is who. Though Mike/McKayla was the only one I could pick out without any trouble.

While I can’t tell you how many times or where exactly the book started to veer from the original, I can tell you that it does veer quite a bit. (I guess that’s why they released them together?) Beau is significantly more clumsy, and fearless, wishing to be the adult in all of his familial relationships, and obsessively in love with Edythe (or maybe the obsessive love was just more apparent from the male perspective? Bella’s thoughts were relatively quiet in comparison) and this ultimately drives the story in new directions. The majority of the Cullens have only very small parts, and everything after the slow beginning moves almost too quickly, though you probably guessed that by the fact that this novel is shorter than Twilight.

Overall, I felt it was well done, despite the slow beginning and the character confusion, and I actually enjoyed the new ending. While Twilight could never have ended that way, it made perfect sense for Beau and Edythe’s story to end there. I think I will always love the original quartet more, but it was refreshing and unique to be able to take a book I really enjoyed and look at it from a new perspective. I felt that I was able to get into the characters’ heads in new ways, and maybe understand Meyer’s world a little more thoroughly. I just need a list of people with their male/female names so I can get all of the characters straight in my head. Just thinking about it hurts.

 

Curio Street Reads Rating: 3.75 Stars

TV Review – Wynonna Earp, Season #1

Wynonna-Earp-Season-One-Syfy

Source: IMDB

Wynonna Earp has been running all her life. Hated by nearly everyone in her small town and thought to be off her rocker by the rest, she had no intention of ever returning to Purgatory. Brought home by the sudden and mysterious death of her uncle, Wynonna gets drawn into a quest for redemption that has been plaguing her family for decades.

 

First off, the diversity in this show is so SO good. Secondly, the number of strong female characters is pretty darn high and that rules. When it comes to the romances, the chemistry and build up isn’t always 100% there, but there is plenty of comical awkwardness to make up for it. I’m not a fan of zombies, but these zombie-esque monsters have been great so far. Even though it’s quite a gory show, it’s still fairly stomachable.

Wynonna, as the title character, is the focus of the show. However, there are plenty of cast regulars that hold their own and often have large storylines of their own. Wynonna’s kid sister, the black-ops agent sent to look into Purgatory’s strange occurrences, the local law enforcement, and even well-known historical characters are all well developed and intriguing to follow along their own paths that criss-cross Wynonna’s life.

To be honest, what I loved most about this show was the old-timey-western nods because I’m a fan of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, but with the season finale, the show takes a turn towards decidedly more Syfy Channel material. I’m still not sure how I feel about it since it was all only in the finale, but I’m just not quite as excited to watch season two as I was season one.

Besides the old-west vibes, I really enjoyed the snarky streak that runs in the Earp family. Waverly’s clearly developed because she is continually underestimated and therefore needs to speak up to get a word in edgewise, while Wynonna built her’s up as a shield against everything being thrown at her. The snark and sarcasm are often used to diffuse awkward situations – usually by making them even more awkward until someone gives up and walks out – and it adds a lot of humor to the show.

Overall, I really really enjoyed this one. Not only is it a win for female characters, it’s a win for diversity as a whole with its character backgrounds, sexuality, and even age. This show encompasses so many good things, and the plot and it’s execution across all 13 episodes of season one are fantastic to boot. I definitely recommend that you go watch it immediately so you won’t have too much catching up to do! The finale cliffhanger(s) are killer, and season two just started at the beginning of June on Syfy in the US, Space in Canada, and Spike in the UK.

 

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

TV Review – Stranger Things, Season #1

Stranger-Things-logo-wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

Alright, let’s start at the top, shall we? I’m pretty picky when it comes to entertainment consumption. Things tend to stick with me, to the point where I remember details of a plot for years after I’ve finished watching or reading something. This is frustrating when a book becomes my favorite because re-reading is pointless for about 10 years. It’s worse when it comes to TV and film, however. I saw The Birds when I was about eleven years old and it still gives me nightmares 14 years later. In general, I don’t like horror because of this. That being said, I really enjoy 80’s movies. So it was fairly difficult for me to decide whether or not Stranger Things was something I wanted to put into my head.

My brother watched it when it first came out and then proceeded to make the rst of my family watch it. At the time I was helping to plan two separate friends’ weddings and was living with one of them part-time to facilitate this process. Because of my living situation, my family was already on episode three when I figured out they were watching it, and at the time I didn’t want to miss anything if I was going to actually commit to it. Which brings us to how I ended up watching it.

The music was cool. That’s really all I could hear from my bedroom besides various characters screaming ‘Will!’ and ‘Barb!’ over and over again, so I didn’t have much to go on besides the music and the recommendation of my family.

I think I started watching it in January? It was well after the weddings were over, and after NaNoWriMo too, so I think it was January. The first episode was half creepy, half boring. I loved that they played Dungeons and Dragons (greatest game ever!), but nothing had really happened, and I had no sense of the world so I had no idea where the story could possibly be going. Fast forward another month and I had watched episodes two and three, and I was becoming seriously bored. I thought this was supposed to be scary? Nothing was happening to propel the story forward, and Winona Ryder was getting really good at playing a crazy lady. I was about ready to give up.

Then, near the end of April, my brother asked if I had finished it yet. I told him my feelings and he insisted that I watch episode four. We watched it together. I was still bored. He kept telling me “some episodes are slower, some are faster.” I didn’t believe him.

Finally, I went back to it at the end of May because I hate leaving things unfinished and I had other series I wanted to watch. I turned on episode five, and WOW! What a difference! In fact, the entire second half of the season moved at lightning speed compared to the first half. It honestly felt like watching an entirely different show. Characters developed! The plot moved along at a semi-reasonable pace! We got a good look at the monster!

Overall, I enjoyed it. It’s 80’s nostalgia wasn’t overpowering, but the setting was believable. The plot was well constructed in the last four episodes. We got clear answers to our burning Mike and El questions, and Lucas finally turned back into a normal human being. We got some backstory on Chief Hopper (though no hints as to what he’s currently up to), and Nancy turned into a pretty cool character.

Now the bad news:
Besides the first four episodes being more boring than watching paint dry, the actual ending killed me. I should probably warn you that I finished watching the finale about… 27.5 minutes ago at the time of writing this, so these impressions are piping hot and fresh, but come on, Steve? And what about the egg? And the stupid homage to Stephen King’s IT with that last bathroom scene? And I WANT EL BACK!!!

Plenty of it was cliche “Don’t open the door!” moments, and, I’m sorry, but can the library please not be the most dangerous place in everything? It’s just too obvious. (See every video game featuring a library. The ‘library’ level is the most difficult. Or it’s the lair of the evil beast. Always.) And I know these people have never dealt with *****SPOILER***** Infectious aliens personally before, but COME ON, this is the 80’s, the movie Alien had already been released! They’re all obsessed with Sci-fi and Fantasy and no one thinks to do an X-ray to see if anything else is inside of him? I mean, it’s not like you pulled a four-foot-monster-larva out of him or anything. *****END SPOILER*****

 

Will I be watching Season #2? Yes. Will I be angry if it ends anything like this one did? YES.

 

HHC Rating: 3.75 Stars.

 

One last burning question: How does their science teacher know so much? I smell a conspiracy.

 

Wicked Charms (Lizzy & Diesel, #3) – Janet Evanovich and Phoef Sutton

wicked-charms-janet-evanovich

Source: Goodreads

Lizzy and Diesel’s third adventure takes to the high seas in search of the Avaritia Stone, the SALIGIA stone of greed. Besides boats and pirates and buried treasure, Lizzy is on the hunt for a publisher. Will she find everything she’s looking for?

After the second installment, I was very dubious going into this story, but the pirate theme had me pretty excited. There is so much historic potential in this series! However, I have a constant worry that she’s trying to build a love triangle by making Wulf more likable, the problem being that nobody likes him. Now, on top of all that, I’m worried about the series in general.Why has she brought in a co-author? Will Phoef Sutton be continuing on with the series? and HOW EXACTLY are you supposed to pronounce his name? Is it like loaf? or pho-eff? or is the pho like fuh?

Apparently, all of these are wrong according to Wikipedia, which says that it’s a nickname for Christopher, pronounced feef. How does that make sense? Also, you would think that the former executive producer of Cheers would be able to imbue the story with a bit more Boston/New England history, wouldn’t you? You would be wrong.

Some of my favorite things about Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series are the tidbits of New Jersey history that creep into the story. Since this series in based in Boston/Salem, and there is SO MUCH HISTORY TO WORK WITH THERE, why isn’t more of it included? We get maybe 3 pages of history per book and it’s always told in a super-quick and non-important seeming way. They are literally hunting stones that have been passed down through history, and they can’t spend more than 3/300 pages telling us about that history? Maybe some readers didn’t even notice, but it is quite possibly the most frustrating things about these books for a history lover like myself. Even the secret tunnels are rushed over, and they are SO IMPORTANT TO EVERYTHING.

The storyline itself felt extremely rushed, and the characters didn’t develop at all, except for Hatchett, who has suddenly gotten a lot nicer. Carl the monkey, thankfully, has gone back to his bird-flipping ways. But really, not a whole lot happens in this book. There are a whole bunch of new characters that may or may not be continuing on in the series, and it just all seemed like it was over in a day or two. I feel like in the other books it took them weeks to find everything. I’m just feeling really disappointed, okay? Not sure if I even want to give the next book a try or just give up on the series.

HHC Rating: 1.5 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – Wicked Appetite
Book #2 – Wicked Business

Wicked Business (Lizzy & Diesel, #2) – Janet Evanovich

Wicked-Business-Janet-Evanovich.jpg

via Goodreads

Baking queen and magical item detector Lizzy Tucker is back on the case of the missing SALIGIA stones with her pals Deisel, Carl, and Cat 7143. This time, they’re searching for the Luxuria stone, the stone of lust, before it falls into the hands of one of the quickly multiplying number of bad guys and helps bring about hell on earth.

The sequel to Janet Evanovich’s Wicked Appetite Wicked Business takes place in and around Boston in October, seemingly making it a great fall read. I was so looking forward to Lizzy and Deisel’s next adventure, however, this story left me with mixed feelings and a lot of questions.

After the first book introduced the chemistry between Lizzy and Deisel and we were told they couldn’t act on it without one or both of them losing their powers, I, as a reader, assumed the stone of lust would probably be the last stone they would locate. Until then, we would enjoy the building of their relationship. When they find the stone, something would happen and the consequences of that would mean one of them would have to save the world alone. All of this would, of course, happen while avoiding Wulf, who was established in the first book as a very creepy and evil dude whom we should definitely fear.

All of this, of course, was proven wrong by this second book’s very existence. First of all, they’re searching for the luxuria (lust) stone now? Not in another five books? Second of all, they basically act on their feelings and there are no consequences? Third, every character in this book seems a little thin, if not straight up wimpy. Lizzy is afraid of everything, Deisel isn’t even half of his usual suave self from the first book and his guest appearances in the Stephanie Plum holiday stories, and Wulf basically became a crybaby? Even the monkey isn’t as rude to everyone. Fourth, going back to the Wulf problem, he’s been waiting to ruin Lizzy, yet in this book he meets a girl and now we’re supposed to feel bad about everything that’s happening to/around him?

Fifth and finally, this book punches a bunch of holes in the series. If the luxuria stone is “broken” can Wulf even bring about hell on earth? Aren’t we safe from that now that the stone can’t be used for nefarious means? Does this mean the entire mission is over already? If the luxuria stone can be “broken”, can they all be? And if they can, is it possible they could be “fixed”? And of course, if Wulf is no longer the ultimate evil character, what is his role now in the series? Mildly annoying kind of bad guy? Or are we headed for a dreaded and surely very awkward love triangle? (PLEASE NO.)

This book just left me with too many questions. Overall the story was light and fun when I expected it to be a little more dangerous and, especially since they were searching for the stone of lust, sexy. Evanovich knows how to do sexy, and if you’ve ever read the Stephanie Plum series, you know this. Which is why I’m at such a loss with this book. I’m going to have to read the third book to see where she’s taking the story, but right now things don’t look too hot for Lizzy and Deisel. I probably wouldn’t recommend reading this one unless the third one turns out to be better; because this one definitely suffers from a second book slump at the very least.

HHC Rating: 2.5 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – Wicked Appetite
Book #3 – Wicked Charms

Wicked Appetite (Lizzy & Diesel, #1) – Janet Evanovich

Wicked-Appetite-Janet-Evanovich.jpg

via Goodreads

Lizzy’s special talent is cupcakes. She can make anything well (with the exception of gravy), but her cupcakes are something magical. Literally. Or at least that’s what the big blond stranger standing on her doorstep keeps telling her. He also insists that it isn’t her only talent. Lizzy is a finder, one of only two in the known world, and Diesel needs her help to find and contain the SALIGIA stones before someone uses them to bring about Hell on Earth. Oh yeah, and magic is real, there’s a vampire-looking guy stalking her, some guy dressed in tights trying to maim her, a cat named Cat, and a very rude monkey named Carl. Together, Lizzy, Diesel, Cat, and Carl might just save the world. Maybe. If Lizzy doesn’t die or lose her magical powers first.

I’ve been a fan of Janet Evanovich’s work for a few years now, ever since someone convinced me to read the Stephanie Plum series set in Trenton and the surrounding parts of New Jersey, my home state. The Lizzy and Diesel series takes place in the same universe, with the addition of magic. In fact, Diesel even makes a few appearances in Stephanie’s life in the holiday novellas!

Wicked Appetite is set in the Boston metropolitan area. Lizzy has just inherited a house in Marblehead from her great aunt and started working at a bakery in Salem. Everything is hunky-dory until Grimwolfe Grimoire and Diesel (no last name) pop into her life and shake things up. Suddenly her life is in danger, spells are being cast, and people are acting very weird. The book moves pretty quickly, and Evanovich’s dialogue is always snappy and entertaining. Evanovich is a master at making the reader feel at home in her books. Her descriptions are so realistic that I often imagine being able to drive to Massachusettes and, using only this book, find every location at which something takes place within its pages.

Wicked Appetite is a great introduction to the series, in which each book describes the search for a SALIGIA stone, an ancient artifact said to contain great powers and represent one of the seven deadly sins: Pride, Greed, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, Wrath, and Sloth. Or, more precisely, Superbia, Avaritia, Luxuria, Invidia, Gula, Ira, and Acedia: SALIGIA. I would recommend Wicked Appetite to anyone excited to learn about a new city, looking for a little spontaneous romance in their life, or who enjoys witty banter. Wicked Appetite is right up your alley. Not recommended for anyone under the age of 12 or so, due to some adult themes.

HHC Rating: 4.5 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #2 – Wicked Business
Book #3 – Wicked Charms