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

 

In Other Lands – Sarah Rees Brennan

In-Other-Lands-Sarah-Rees-Brennan

Source: Goodreads

Elliot Schafer is obnoxious. No one at school can stand him, his father at home ignores him, and his mother left when he was a baby. Then one day his teacher drives him to the middle of nowhere and sells him to an oddly dressed woman because he can see a stone wall where his classmates cannot. What ensues is part adventure, part education, part self-discovery, and all about the love.

 

A review of this book popped up on Goodreads about two months ago, and I requested it from my library immediately. Blurbed by many well-known authors, including Leigh Bardugo, Tamora Pierce, Cassandra Claire, Gregory Maguire, and Holly Black, this book was a definite addition to my TBR. In Other Lands was published just under a month ago, on August 17th, and a copy arrived at my library a day early! I can’t even tell you how exciting that was.

Let me start by saying that there are no chapters. The book is sectioned by year, following Elliot from the ages of 13 to 18. The ‘otherland’ is a fantastic world full of diverse peoples and even more diverse cultures. This book is not only a play on the portal-world trope but also a narrative on how our culture is being constantly blended and added to with new words and beliefs. From sexuality to gender stereotypes to machismo and sexism, this book hits it all right on the head. With a Trigon ball.

Being CisHet and having people close to me who identify on the LGBTQ+ spectrum made this book all the more dear to me. While I’m sure not everyone will agree, I felt that it did a good job of handling the differences in sexuality and not blowing them out of proportion, as often happens in literature and in other media. It wasn’t anyone’s defining characteristic, and that’s exactly as it should be. That being said, there is quite a bit of discussion throughout of intimacy and menstruation, as well as actual (but not overly detailed) intimacy. So, I wouldn’t recommend reading this if you’re under the age of, say, 14, or if you are uncomfortable at all with that kind of scene, whether CisHet or LGBTQ+. With the addition of a few of the other cultures whose major sexism is the reverse of humans, it can all become just a bit much all at once.

 

Overall I am glad to have read it and will be recommending it to many of my friends, CisHet as well as LGBTQ+, to read.

 

HHC Rating: 4 Stars

Getting Rid of Bradley – Jennifer Crusie

Getting-Rid-Of-Bradley-Jennifer-Crusie

Source: Goodreads

 

Lucy Savage dreams of having her little house all to herself, hanging out with her dogs after she’s done teaching physics for the day at the local high school. There’s just one problem: Bradley. When her cheating husband stands her up in divorce court, she’s beyond getting over him, she just wants to get rid of him.
Enter Officer Zack Warren, who is investigating Bradley for embezzlement. When someone shoots at Lucy and blows up her car, he assigns himself to be her 24-hour security team and moves into her quiet, peaceful house (minus the three dogs and attack cat). Unsure about whether or not to trust the long-haired, leather-jacket-wearing, supposed good-guy in her kitchen, Lucy is only sure of two things. Her life is not safe outside the house, and her heart may not be safe inside it.

 

This book really made the rounds this summer. My sister’s friend brought it to read while we were all on vacation together in June. She finished it quickly and then my sister picked it up. I got it from my sister, and after reading it in a day I immediately passed it on to our mother. Needless to say, we all loved it. Originally published in 1994, the mostly pre-cell-phone era allowed for even greater shenanigans than would be possible today. Crusie’s characters (including the animals!) are full and interesting, quirky in their own ways. The plot is woven thickly, and I could never quite figure out what would happen next.

I can’t explain much more about the plot without going into spoilers, but Getting Rid of Bradley is part mystery, part romance, and all fun. I would highly recommend this to anyone looking to wrap up their summer reading with a danger and romance filled feel-good story.

 

HHC Rating: 4.5 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

Cotillion – Georgette Heyer

Cotillion-Georgette-Heyer

Source: ThriftBooks

Kitty Charing is set to inherit the immense fortune of her scrooge of a guardian, a man who adopted her after his childhood friend, Kitty’s father, passed away. There’s only one catch: Miss Charing must marry one of the old man’s great nephews, or the whole of the fortune will be donated and Kitty left penniless when her guardian passes.

 

If you’ve never read a Regency Romance written by Georgette Heyer, go and order one right away. Heyer, the author of over 54 novels, is known primarily as the “inventor” of the Regency Romance subgenre. Unlike Jane Austen, who was technically writing contemporaries because she wrote about the time period in which she herself lived, Georgette Heyer wasn’t even born until 1902, and published her first book in 1921. Her works are unlike the Regency Romances of today in that there are actually very few romantic scenes: the books usually end with a kiss – that’s it. Today’s RR’s are more typically full of heavy romance scenes early on, and then characters dealing with the fallout.

Georgette Heyer’s stories are enveloped in the high society of the 17-1800’s, where one wrong move would get you banned from the London social season (also known as the ‘marriage market’) and ruin your societal standing in a single blow. She is well known for her historical accuracy, often explaining clothing, etiquette, and society for the benefit of the reader in ways that Jane Austen would have taken for granted that her readers understood.

 

What I’m saying is, Georgette Heyer’s Regency Romances are basically the Romantic Comedies of the 1920’s-70’s. Often hysterically funny and filled with character miscommunications, a trip through a Georgette Heyer book is never anything but highly entertaining. It’s no wonder that her books sold well even during the Great Depression.

Cotillion, in particular, is one of my favorites although The Nonesuch, Bath Tangle and Sprig Muslin are close front runners as well.  Some readers may feel they need a dictionary in order to understand the period-specific talk, but it’s actually fairly simple to get the gist of the phrasing, even if you don’t know the actual definition. For example, a ‘dashed ivory-turner’ is another way of calling someone a professional gambler.

In Cotillion, we follow Catherine Charing, who believes she is about to become a wealthy heiress, as well as five of Uncle Matthew’s great nephews, four of whom remain unmarried at the time at which Uncle Matthew makes his announcement that Kitty must marry one of them. The mayhem itself is entertaining, but as always the slow turn of the romance is fascinating to watch. You’re left wondering until the last pages who she will choose to marry, if anyone at all, and in between fending off of various romantic advances, Kitty gets up to some trouble of her own.

Overall I quite enjoyed this book, even if this was my 4th or 5th time reading it. Recommended to anyone who enjoys miscommunication stories and romances.

 

Highlights and Hot Chocolate Rating: 4.5 Stars

The Last of August (Charlotte Holmes, #2) – Brittany Cavallaro

charlotte-holmes-the-last-of-august-brittany-cavallaro

Source: Goodreads

Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes attempt to spend their Christmas holiday visiting their families in England, relaxing after their near murders in A Study in Charlotte, but the great game has other plans for them. Holmes’ uncle suddenly goes missing, and Charlotte and Jamie are left to pick up the pieces of his undercover investigation. In Germany. Working with and against the Moriartys. It’s a test of their relationship, which is complicated enough, to begin with, and could spell the end for our dynamic duo.

I felt conflicted going into this story, in large part because I thought the first book was rather dark, and I wasn’t looking forward to a series that was going to make me depressed. However, I am delighted to say that The Last of August wasn’t nearly so deep or mysterious as its predecessor.

That being said, I still had issues with it. As with the first book, the reveal waits until the very end. The difference being that in this one the reveal made absolutely no sense, even to Charlotte. It was obvious something was wrong throughout the book, but not one of the characters was able to see the twists coming. I found the fact that no one had the full story and continued to make stupid mistakes rather ridiculous. Charlotte and her family are Holmeses for goodness sake. We spent the entire first book being told how good Charlotte is at what she does, and how bad Jamie is at it all. This book flipped everything on its head. Charlotte wanted to be invisible rather than at the forefront of everything, Jamie became significantly more outgoing, and yet somehow everything still ended in disaster. I’m at a loss to understand where the third book is going to take our now seriously uncoordinated duo.

HHC Rating: 3.25 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – A Study in Charlotte