Halloween Book Review: The Vampire Diaries

A charity shop read I could have done without.

The Vampire Diaries is a series of young adult novels by L.J. Smith about, funnily enough, vampires.  The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening is the first in the series and follows Elena Gilbert, the popular high school student everyone envies, as she sets eyes on the broody and handsome new boy at school, Stefan Salvatore. Little does she know, Stefan is hiding a huge secret; he’s a vampire, as is his brother, Damon Salvatore, a dangerous and dark killer.

Arguably, The Vampire Diaries is more well-known nowadays by the TV adaptation which starred Nina Dobrev as Elena, Paul Wesley as Stefan, and Ian Somerhalder as Damon. I used to watch The Vampire Diaries and quite enjoyed the thrills and drama of the earlier seasons. I thought it was fun enough as a TV show and more interesting than Twilight, at least.

I found The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening in a charity shop and decided to give it a go, seeing as I had enjoyed the TV series it was based on. I also thought, since I love L.J. Smith’s young adult thriller series called The Forbidden Game, I’d enjoy reading more of her work. What could go wrong?

The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening was a disappointment.

Elena is simplistic and over-emotional, and her emotions tend to always revolve around boys. She falls in love with Stefan after about 2 minutes and they begin a relationship incredibly quickly. She adapts to him being a vampire quite easily too. A lot of the plot moves rather quickly, in a way that just doesn’t feel realistic at all.

Damon, the infamous “baddie” from the show, doesn’t even make an appearance in the first book, and when he does, it isn’t particularly impactful. Elena summons him at the start of the sequel, The Vampire Diaries: The Struggle as if he’s ready to do her bidding. This is a huge contrast to the TV show, in which Damon shows up unannounced on Stefan’s doorstep to wreak havoc. Almost immediately, and predictably, Elena falls in love with Damon, who is then established as an obvious villain with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I much preferred the way Ian Somerhalder played Damon as dark, sincere and dangerous, whilst simultaneously being sarcastic, witty, and (occasionally) emotional.

There were some events I recognised from watching the TV show  such as a haunted house themed disco and a Founders’ Day Parade but, again, because the book is so short, everything feels rushed. People are murdered yet it happens so quickly for me to even care.

If I had read these books when I was 10 years old, I might have enjoyed them a bit more or been more prepared to read the rest in the series. As it is, I took a chance and was left disappointed. I think I’ll stick to the TV series.

– Judith

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Book Review: Chasing Monsters by Paul Harrison

This is part of a blog tour organised by Love Books Group and Urbane Publications.

Chasing Monsters is the debut crime thriller novel by writer Paul Harrison. Harrison has spent much of his career working within the criminal justice system in the UK as a police officer, and has gained a remarkable insight into some shockingly violent criminals.

Chasing Monsters is set in a quiet suburb of Bridlington, where nothing much happens. However, after a mutilated body is discovered, the Eastborough Police Force is forced into action. As the number of murder victims begins to increase rapidly, DI Will Scott is put in charge of the investigation in a race against the clock to catch the killer responsible.

As a quick first impression, the genre of Chasing Monsters surprised me because of its use of supernatural language and imagery both in the title and book cover. You could be forgiven for thinking the book was a new fantasy / horror. The plot did have a small supernatural / religious undertone however, which may be foregrounded in later books and would explain this style of branding.

I also think it could be worth the author having another proofread of Chasing Monsters, as there were a few phrases that weren’t entirely clear, as well as some spelling / grammar oddities, which can be easy to miss!

Nonetheless, Harrison has written a good debut novel.

First of all, it’s set in Yorkshire – the perfect way to my heart, as a West Yorkshire lass myself!

It’s also evident he knows a lot about the subject matter; crime scenes, police protocol and murder victims’ bodies are always described with clear detail. In particular, the graphic descriptions of the mutilated bodies were always fantastically gruesome and I was left quite astounded that someone could think up such creative … murder methods.

As a reader, I could definitely feel the pressure building for DI Will Scott, as he desperately wants to stop the murder spree but can’t find new leads quick enough before the next body turns up, which I’m sure echoes the stressful nature of police work in real life.

Chasing Monsters gives nothing away early; the culprit is only revealed at the very end of the book, so if you enjoy a long, suspenseful wait then this would be a good book for you.

Personally, I think the book could have benefited from a few more hints at the murderer’s identity – dropped in subtly, of course.

In my ever so humble opinion, Paul Harrison has transitioned well from writing about true crimes to fictional ones, and Chasing Monsters was an enjoyable debut novel that I’m sure others will enjoy too.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

Chasing Monsters is available to buy as a paperback or an e-book from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.

– Judith

Halloween Book Review: The Grownup

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn is a short story about a young woman who works both as a fake psychic and a sex worker. She is hired to exorcise Carterhook Manor and, while she doesn’t believe in spirits or the supernatural, feels something is wrong with the house and its inhabitants – very wrong.

I thought The Grownup was a fun, contemporary story that pays homage to classic ghost stories and plays with the Gothic convention of the haunted house.

Given the protagonist herself is a con artist, it’s never clear who to believe or trust at any given moment, which is a reoccurring trend in characters from Flynn’s novels such as Sharp Objects and Gone Girl. Who’s a sociopath? Who’s a killer? Who’s a ghost? Who knows.

However, I felt The Grownup was too short (I know it’s meant to be a short story); the cliff-hanger ending was enjoyable but I was verging on feeling unsatisfied by the way things were left.

Do I think The Grownup is as good as Flynn’s other books? No.

Would I recommend to a friend? Yes – Gillian Flynn has fun with the genre and displays her skill at writing both novels and short stories.

– Judith