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

 

Over Sea, Under Stone (The Dark is Rising Sequence, #1) – Susan Cooper

 

FullSizeRender
Photo by Amanda_HHC

 

 

Simon, Jane, and Barnabus Drew have just arrived in Cornwall for a summer holiday with their parents and great uncle when they discover a mysteriously hidden passageway to a long-forgotten attic in the house they are staying at. Among the relics and dust, they find what could only be a treasure map. In following the ancient clues, the Drews attract the attention of other treasure hunters, determined to get the prize for themselves in the name of an evil known only as the Dark. As Simon, Jane, and Barney unravel the secrets of the map, they realize the treasure is more important than they ever could have dreamed, and might even be related to the true history of King Arthur.

 

I was gifted The Dark is Rising Sequence as a Christmas present from my parents over a decade ago and loved them. When I set out to re-read all of my childhood favorites this year, I knew this series needed to be on my list. Cooper’s writing is simple enough that my young mind could comprehend it, but it is also complex enough to still make the story enjoyable as an adult.

Admittedly, I don’t remember much from my original reading of the book beyond that it had a theme about King Arthur and Merlin, and that I liked it, so re-reading these is nearly as entertaining as it was back then. I have always loved anything to do with King Arthur and Merlin (Guinevere and Lancelot not so much), so those themes in the story are my favorite. As a child, it was fun to read about people near my own age getting in on the adventures, rather than reading about yet another 16-year-old protagonist who needed to go save a princess or a kingdom or slay something. The Drews are not ‘special snowflakes’ in any sense. They make mistakes, and that is what allows the story to wander where it does and come to the conclusion Cooper had planned. The book does move a little slowly, and the characters’ minds wander so that we get more description than is strictly necessary. Most of these descriptions help build other characters in the reader’s mind, however, and for younger readers, it would make perfect sense that these descriptions would be needed. After all, we can’t all have ready-made villains in our heads to slap names on at the drop of a hat. What I am trying to say here is this: There is a lot of description, but it is not altogether unwelcome.

The scenery, seen through Cooper’s world-building, is wonderful. No matter where I picked up in the book, I could almost feel the Cornish winds whipping across the headlands and hear the sea slamming against the rocks of Kemare head as the tide rushes in. The characters each have their own personalities and accents, making each an interesting little nugget of eccentricities to mine for.

I have no idea where the rest of the series will take me, but I look forward to diving in!

 

HHC Rating: 3.5 Stars

P.S. The covers featured are from a reprint of the 1986 box set edition. The edition was printed in 2000, but as far as I can find, these covers are no longer available.

Other reviews in this series:
Book #2 – The Dark is Rising (Review available 10/10)
Book #3 – Greenwitch (Review available 10/31)
Book #4 – The Grey King (Review available 11/21)
Book #5 – Silver on the Tree (Review available 12/12)

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

Fall of a Kingdom (Farsala, #1) – Hilari Bell

Farsala-Fall-Of-A-Kingdom-Hilari-Bell

Source: Goodreads

 

Jiaan is the eldest son of the high commander of Farsala’s army, but his half-blood status means he can never inherit, and he can never fight with the full-blooded deghans. His half-sister Soraya is a full-blooded deghass, but she will face sacrificial abandonment so that her people can win the oncoming war against the mighty Hrum. Kavi is a crippled peddler, but his slight shoulders hold the greatest weight. Will he choose to aid Farsala’s deghans, who have treated his people harshly for centuries, or the Hrum, who promise legal equality once Farsala is conquered?

 

This series is a re-read for me, but I remembered next to nothing about it aside from the fact that there was magic and a war. I also remember not loving the first book, but that the rest of them were better.

This first volume reads more like an introduction to the characters than its own story arc. There is some world building, but not enough that I understand the hierarchy of the deghans and the peasantry in any real way. There is mention of different languages, but not enough description to know who speaks which and what the differences are. There are also major time jumps. We seldom see what two characters are doing in the same timeframe. Overall, I finished the book feeling somewhat confused. Somehow, Fall of a Kingdom falls victim to what is typically a second book slump, even though it is the first book in a series.

Here is what I was able to understand of the Farsalan culture:
The kingdom of Farsala is made up mostly of plains, though it has swamps on the coast, and mountains, cliffs, and deserts as well. The Farsalan people are separated into two sects. The deghans (deghans and deghasses) are the nobility, who intermarry to keep the bloodlines pure. A sign of blood purity is straight, jet black hair. The peasants, on the other hand, often bear the bastard children of the deghans, who then go on to fight as foot soldiers in the army. The peasants all have curly light brown hair. Their main export is horses, and their cavalry is the strongest in the world. Their belief system is founded on Azura, the sun god, who keeps them safe from the wicked djinn, who use their magical powers to trick men into committing crimes. It is this belief system that sentences Soraya to be sacrificed so that Azura will bless the army with victory. Each of the Farsalan deghans’ noble families has it’s own animal sigil, and there are giant statues of them arranged in a line at the palace to show who is highest in the gahn’s (the emperor) favor. And that’s it.

I don’t have a recommendation either way for this book just yet, but I’ll come back and let you know after I’ve re-read the other books in the series.

 

HHC Rating: 2.75 Stars

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book #2 – Rise of a Hero (Review Available 9/26)
Book #3 – Forging the Sword (Review Available 10/17)

Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella (Tyme, #2) – Megan Morrison

Tyme-Disenchanted-The-Trials-Of-Cinderella-Megan-Morrison

Source: Goodreads

 

Ella Coach doesn’t want riches or fame, only justice for a mother who died working in a sweatshop. Prince Charming isn’t looking for true love, but he’s done playing with people’s hearts too, now that The Charming Curse has been broken. Serge is an executive fairy godfather. He’s granted wishes beyond your wildest dreams, even made queens out of barmaids, but now he caters mostly to the rich and famous who pay to be on his list. Until one day a name no one knows appears on it. Ella Coach.

 

This second installment in Morrison’s Tyme series is just as fantastic as the first. Unlike Grounded, in which we follow the characters on an epic quest of sorts, Disenchanted deals with problems much closer to home. A prince who is finally free to act like himself grapples with the world who liked him better the way he was. A girl who knows first hand the horrors of a sweatshop sets out to make things right. A fairy uncovers a nefarious plot to overthrow a corrupted king. We also get a Cinderella who’s a person of color, and she’s not the only POC character! There’s also a Crimson Fairy who is dealing with everyone hating him base don his heritage, and then the normal class wars that you see in most fairytales. There’s a lot going on here, but it all melds together beautifully.

While I was disappointed at first that we weren’t going to explore multiple kingdoms this time around, I found the in-depth look at a single kingdom infinitely interesting. Because Ella is dealing with worker compensation, the reader gets a good hard look at the economy in the kingdom of Blue. Morrison has a talent for taking real-world problems and making them understandable to the average person, no matter their age. This narrative on the importance of all lives, not just the wealthy, is something everyone can relate to, especially right now.

The world building was wonderful yet again, and I can’t wait to see what else Morrison and her world of Tyme co-creator Ruth Virkus come up with for the next book in the series, which has tentatively been titled Transformed: The Perils of the Frog Prince and is due to be published in Summer 2018.

 

Curio Street Reads Rating:  5 Stars

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel
Book #3 – Transformed: The Perils of the Frog Prince (To be published in Summer 2018)

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

August Update & Goals Check-In

Update - 8 - August

 

Hello, August!!

Welcome to the first monthly update of my life as a 25-year-old. Yes, that still feels strange to say.

My vacation at the beginning of July was fantastic – the lakes in Maine are superb! – but then I had to come back down to Earth.

The last couple weeks have been intensely stressful, to the point where my brain has all but stopped working and my body has decided to make itself ill. I’m talking headaches, exhaustion, stomach aches, loss of appetite (which literally never happens), and especially in the last week, complete lack of sleep.

All this because I formally announced to my family and friends that I’m moving out on my own (with roommates, obv.). Apparently, my body is terrified, meanwhile until this past week my spirit and brain have been all “LET’S DO THIS!! FINALLY!” which is why I’ve been exhausted all the time. The first half of this month I spent every evening and day off going on apartment tours, and it wasn’t until yesterday that I signed my lease. I’ve been an absolute mess for the past week while I waited for my landlord to get around to sending me the lease. It was awful. But at least I have a place to live now!

On top of all of that, I started taking Accutane for my acne issues in June, and that has been a trip in and of itself. The first two weeks, basically all of my skin fell off. It was just as gross as it sounds. Not leprosy bad, but bad. My lips continued to peel for the rest of the first month as well, which made me very self-conscious for possibly the first time, ever. The lip-peeling eventually subsided when I started using vaseline on them at night, and the dry, flaky skin petered out on its own under my use of sunscreen and moisturizers. The Accutane also has all kinds of emotional side-effects, and the first week was just insane. Most of the chaos I’m dealing with right now is stress and fear-induced, but I’m sure the Accutane is magnifying it all to some degree.

With all of that going on, it’s no wonder that I completely failed at Camp NaNoWriMo. You’ve probably already noticed that I didn’t post a single update after my intro post, and that’s because I got sucked into the chaos of apartment hunting.

The next thing I’ll be focusing on is job hunting. Yes, I’ve been searching since July, but the vast majority of positions are open for submission until the beginning of September, which means I won’t hear about interviews until probably mid-September or get anything full time until October. This necessitates a secondary job search, for part-time positions. What are some cool part-time jobs you’ve held? I’ve worked in I.T., bridal retail, the restaurant industry, as a camp counselor, and as a campus police officer. I think working at a bank, a grocery store, or a book store would be interesting, as those are all things I’ve never done. Do you have one industry you like to stick to for part-time work, or you enjoy diversifying your resume? Maybe it’s the writer in me that loves to try different things all the time. It’s hard to write about something you’ve never experienced, right?

It’s been a long two months since I’ve updated you guys on my life. As September approaches, I’m getting really excited for grad school to start. I have two classes this semester: Intro to Magazine Editing, and Copyediting. I can’t wait to get started.

Before I go, let’s check out how I did on my July goals, and what I’m working on this month.

 

July Goals:

Walk more than 40 miles: I walked 51.57 miles according to my step-tracking app. Woohoo!

Read 10 books:
Scourge
Carry On
River Secrets
Forest Born
The Diviners
Ella Enchanted
All Signs Point to Murder
The Magnolia Story
Georgette Heyer’s Regency World
Jane Austen’s England

Yeah… I ended up not reading any of those except for Ella Enchanted. I did read The Little French Bistro (review here) and Someone to Love, however, so it wasn’t all bad. I’ve since started Carry On, but I’m just not feeling it.

Who’s idea was it that NetGalley manuscripts expire? My plan was to read the books the week before they released, but I went to start them and they were gone. 😦 So now I will be borrowing them from my library so I can complete them and submit my reviews so that my NetGalley rating doesn’t go to crap.

Write 6 Reviews:
Enna Burning
River Secrets
M Train

Ella Enchanted
Scourge
All Signs Point to Murder

Write 10,000 words for Camp NaNoWriMo: Nope. Didn’t happen.

 

 

 

August Goals:

Walk over 40 miles: So far so good!

Read 8 Books:
River Secrets
Someone to Hold
Forest Born
The Diviners
Carry On
Fall of a Kingdom
A Man Called Ove
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle

What I’ve actually read: A lot of romances.
River Secrets
A Knight to Remember
Getting Out of Hand
Forest Born
Knocking Boots
The Princess Saves Herself in This One

Review 7 Books:
River Secrets
Forest Born
Someone to Love
Carry On
Fall of a Kingdom
Getting Rid of Bradley
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle

Secure an Apartment: CHECK!!

Secure a Job: Search in progress.

 

 

That’s all for this month! Check back next month for another update, and don’t forget to check out the weekly book reviews on Tuesdays, my Friday Files series on Fridays, and my other random Thursday posts.

Until next time,

~Amanda