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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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

Book Review: The Help

Image via YouTube.com

The Help by Kathryn Stockett is fantastic.

It’s a novel consisting of a collection of fictional first-person perspectives about black domestic servants working in white households, in 1960s Mississippi.

I studied the American civil rights movement at A-level so before reading, I had some understanding of the historical events and prevailing social attitudes at that time. However, The Help is not written like a textbook or documentary. Whilst a work of fiction, The Help was undoubtedly inspired by real events and real people. It’s personal, raw, emotional and shocking.

Stockett’s writing perfectly reflects the different characters’ personalities. There are three main narrative perspectives; Aibileen Clark and Minny Jackson are both maids in white households, subject to constant racial prejudice. Eugenia Phelan is a white woman who realises the shocking racism in her town and seeks to expose it.

My favourite character was Aibileen, who works for Elizabeth Leefolt . She’s incredibly loving towards the child in her care, humble, respectful. The strength she demonstrates in working dutifully in the face of the many racist comments made about her by her employer – is remarkable.

Given the subject matter, The Help is obviously quite dark and serious in places. Yet, there are some light and funny moments as friendships grow between different characters.

I also found it interesting to read about Minny’s perspective, who works for Celia Foote.

Miss Celia, as Minny calls her, lacks the ‘Stepford Wife’ personality to fit in to society. She doesn’t even know how to cook and is scorned by the other women; she’s never invited for afternoon tea or card games and seems to be truly alone. and she feels truly alone. However, Minny and Miss Celia seem to bond somewhat, in their shared experiences of feeling like an outcast.

Whilst The Help is clearly designed to highlight and condemn racial discrimination, it also draws attention to the varying social prejudices that existed (and still do exist) in communities as well.

I strongly recommend this book; The Help is a gripping read and I didn’t realise quite how much I’d enjoy it.

– Judith