Monday, 24 October 2011

Review: Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

Released: 31st January 2012 (from Amazon)
Spoilers? Nothing you wouldn't read in the blurb.
When Charlotte Kinder treats herself to a two-week vacation at Austenland, she happily leaves behind her ex-husband and his delightful new wife, her ever-grateful children, and all the rest of her real life in America. She dons a bonnet and stays at a country manor house that provides an immersive Austen experience, complete with gentleman actors who cater to the guests' Austen fantasies.
Everyone at Pembrook Park is playing a role, but increasingly, Charlotte isn't sure where roles end and reality begins. And as the parlour games turn a little bit menacing, she finds she needs more than a good corset to keep herself safe. Is the brooding Mr. Mallery as sinister as he seems? What is Miss Gardenside's mysterious ailment? Was that an actual dead body in the secret attic room? And-perhaps of the most lasting importance-could the stirrings in Charlotte's heart be a sign of real-life love?

The follow-up to reader favourite Austenland provides the same perfectly plotted pleasures, with a feisty new heroine, plenty of fresh and frightening twists, and the possibility of a romance that might just go beyond the proper bounds of Austen's world. How could it not turn out right in the end?
“It is a universal truth that nothing spoils a post lunch game of croquet like suspecting the other players of murder.”

I read and reviewed Shannon Hale’s ‘Austenland’ in August and I loved it – it was funny, smart and such a brilliantly fresh twist on Austen.
The first book focused on the idea, on the romance of the situation and the concept of living in Jane Austen’s world for two weeks. It was really good, but there wasn’t a vast amount of action, so some bits dragged a little bit. 

However, ‘Midnight in Austenland’ gave Hale another chance to take all the good bits and make them even better. Instead of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ we plunge with Charlotte into a story closer to ‘Northanger Abbey’ – as a result there’s a lot more action, things happening and bumps in the night enough to scare me silly.

It’s a lot tighter and a lot funnier (which is impressive considering I was laughing out loud most of the way through ‘Austenland’.) It feels like having explored the ideas in the first book, Hale has just snuggled right back into the world and thoroughly enjoyed herself. There is so much more detail, because instead of introducing all these fresh concepts, it’s something that we already know and love.

There was less of a focus on the love aspect – although it was still there. It was more about Charlotte; her re-building her self-esteem and self-worth, and the mysteries surrounding Pembroke Park. I warmed to Charlotte straight away, she was strong and feisty and unbelievably funny.

“”Oh, I meant ‘drawers’ as in the things you open, not like underwear, because clean and tidy underwear is a passion of mine!” Really, Charlotte? She thought. Is it really? Is that a statement you want defining you?”

Charlotte has an almost constant conversation with her Inner Thoughts – to the point that they practically took on a life of their own, and I really loved seeing these conversations. It gave a greater insight into her character, and provided a vast array of humour.

Her inner thoughts shut up after that, probably too distracted by Mr Mallery’s manliness to taunt her anymore.

Pipe down brain, Charlotte commanded. I blame mystery novels for your bad manners.

She was just so instantly likeable, nice Charlotte, who you just wanted to hug for making it through all the bad things and coming out as feisty, strong Charlotte. At the start of each chapter we got insights into events that had shaped her into the person she was – right back to childhood and then closer with the divorce from her husband. It was so empowering to watch her reclaim her life and her spirit, and I wanted to cheer her though.

And the host of secondary characters were a lot stronger this time. It was really good to see some people we already know from the first book, and also to have some acknowledgement of the events in the first book and their consequences.

It was great to see Miss Charming back again, and for some reason I preferred her this time, I really wasn’t fussed on her in ‘Austenland’ but she came alive this time and I felt a lot more compassion towards her as we found out more of her backstory. And the boys… I adore Eddie, he was absolutely brilliant and a fabulous side kick in all of Charlotte’s sleuthing.

“Disapproving?  Of my sister? Impossible. If that were true, I should give him a most stern and scolding sort of look that would cause quakings and shakings of fear.” Eddie previewed his stern and scolding look, and she nodded emphatically to show she was impressed.

He was absolutely fabulous, and I wanted more of him.
It was also nice to see a new dark and forbidding man in the shape of Mr Mallery, who has got glares and brooding scowls down pat. He was an intriguing man, with a lot more depth than I would have expected. Actually that’s true of all the characters, we got a lot more of them instead of one or two sides that were showcased in ‘Austenland’ – the whole thing was just so much better. And that’s impressed, because you can see from my thoughts of ‘Austenland’ that I was blown away by how brilliant I thought it was.

Mr Mallery at the reins of a light, two-wheeled open contraption that Ms. Austen might have called a “phaeton”, but which Charlotte was tempted to call a “chariot” because it reminded her of the chariot races in the movie Ben Hur. Except there was a seat. And not lethal blades swirling in the wheel hubs. At least, not noticeably.

So yes, if you like Austen, buy this book. If you like Shannon Hale, buy this book. If you liked ‘Austenland’ buy this book. And if you are a fan of feisty, intelligent and very funny heroines, buy this book.
It will be released in 2012, and is one of my highest recommended books for the coming year.

“That is wonderful.” He leaned his head back to look at the sky. “Allow me to absorb the wonderfulness of that for a moment. Yes, that will do.”

Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Vampire Diaries Review: Smells Like Teen Spirit

Previously on The Vampire Diaries: Klaus was mean to everyone, Stefan switched off, Elena and Damon had a moment, Tyler was turned into a hybrid, Matt committed suicide, thankfully Bonnie knew CPR, and Katherine and Jeremy teamed up to be the best sleuthing couple ever in a bid to find the scariest beast around – Mikeal. And Dana died – let’s take a moment…

Ah, we know we’re in Mystic Falls because we’re waking up with Elena at quarter past five in the morning?... How long does this girl need to take with her pre-school make up prep?
That’s right, use make up to hide the marks of your terrible boy. Stefan, be ashamed of yourself. That’s right, hang your head.

Alaric is also up at five fifteen? What is wrong with this household? Oh wait, he has a hangover, all is right with the world.

Wait, they got up that early to do vampire killing workout? And Alaric has a dummy for just such an occasion? I love it. I love that Elena is finally doing something to protect herself, and that Alaric is finally starting to step up and become not only a mostly functioning adult, but also a parent.

“Thanks for not sugar coating it…” I like that he’s also brutally honest with her, and seemingly a little bit bored with all of this. “Vampires will take whatever they want, they will hurt whoever they want, and they will do it without remorse – it’s their nature.”

“You don’t have to use pronouns, you can say Stefan.” I am so glad that Elena has finally shaken out of her lovey dovey phase. Stefan is currently a jack ass, and I love that she’s not sitting around and taking it. She’s preparing and she’s going to fight back. Spunky Elena is cool.

“I think you found a way to get out of bed this morning, and that makes you the strongest person I know. I think that you can do, pretty much anything.” Alaric is actually pretty good at this parenting thing, how long has it been since Elena had a decent pep talk from an adult?

Ahhh, soundtrack junkie moment – Ok Go “This too shall Pass.” Whilst I love it here, seriously go check out the video for the song. It is epic. Actually both videos for it. They are both epic.

This takes me right back to the pilot and the second episode, actually everything about this episode reminds me of those two episodes. Being back at school (hey they do still go there!) the party, and various other little moments. And the idea of the bad brother and the good brother, only completely role reversed.

“Ok so prank night was a bust, but we are accepting it and we are moving on.” Have I said how much I love Caroline lately? Cos I love her a lot. Her optimism and spirit, and just look how far she’s come in the last year.

That goes for all of them. Just looking at the similarities to this time last year, but also the differences. It’s a really nice reflective episode – without going too far back in time.

“I mean why should I let the fact that my boyfriend is seeing the ghosts of his dead girlfriends hinder this experience?”
“Yes! And why should I let the fact that my boyfriend was turned into a hybrid, put a damper on an otherwise fabulous day?!”
“Today’s our anniversary.”
Ok Elena you win on the sucky boyfriend and the half empty glass fronts. Way to go.

“New year, new life.” This seems to be Elena’s mantra at the start of every year. Maybe she should move? Or graduate. Oh wait, you have to attend school more than three times a year to do that… And now, murder meetings in the history classroom after hours does not count as attendance.

“Hey the two brunettes on the staircase owe me a Persian rug.” Oh wow. I love how twisted this is. I mean, we saw Damon party half naked with sorority girls, but we never saw him play blood donor twister with a bunch of girls whilst leaving a trail of bodies around the house.

I also love the look on Damon’s face – as though he has been here before a hundred years ago, and god damn it he is bored of cleaning up the bodies.
“Would you like a spin?”

“These ladies are helping me be all that I can be!” You know, on one level I want to slap him, but on every other level I LOVE EVIL STEFAN. Please stick around for a while. He’s cool, he’s cocky and he is so much more fun when he’s bad.

“Who the hell are you?” Has Damon not yet met Rebekah? Oh he is in for a treat! And she’s had chance to go shopping already?
Dear lord, Klaus even left Rebekah here? I mean I know he needs people to protect his assets, but considering how desperate he was to take Rebekah with him in the 20’s it seems cruel even for him to abandon her in Mystic Falls whilst he goes off gallivanting.

“You’re Klaus’s sister?”
“Rebekah, pleasure I’m sure. Which room’s my room?”
“You’re not staying here.”
“Rude. Both of you. I’ll see to it myself.”
“So I guess she’s staying here.”
First off, I love that she’s actually just moved in. Second, anyone else snigger over that little baffled shake of the head from Damon when she asks which rooms is hers? And how sick he looks after she’s run off. Poor Damon.

Um Bonnie, considering it is your fault that Jeremy is seeing ghosts, it’s a bit mean to be this fussed about it.
So if he didn’t break up with anyone, does this mean he is currently dating three girls at once? Jeremy you sly dog.

Aw Matt. Suicide and you still only have a ghost to talk to.
“You can’t keep appearing like this, it freaks me out.”
“I’m a ghost – it’s all I got.”
“You ok? You seem unhappy.” The guy killed himself yesterday, why is no one seeing this as a cry for help?

Tyler is way too perky for someone who also died yesterday. This does not 
bode well.

Katherine is tempting Mikael with a mouse? How is that going to persuade him?
“Well try harder! We need him to kill Klaus so we can de-ripperfy Stefan before he destroys my house.”

BARBIE KLAUS?! Oh my word that might be my favourite nickname ever in the history of nicknames.
“Journalling, reading, shaping his hair… Is that the bell? RING RING – don’t want to be late!” Damon is on a winning streak for amusing phone calls with Elena so far this season.

“Vampire 101, don’t bring your breakfast to school”
Uh, Rebekah is hooking him up? On one level this is really bad, but on another, it kind of feels like Caroline is so stressed about the hybrid thing that she’s not even thought about the fact that Tyler is now a vampire and needs blood. She was so supportive and helpful when he wolfed out it seems cruel how harsh she’s being now over his vampirism.

Love that Stefan deliberately runs into Elena when she’s exiting the boys toilets at the start of the year (again) I also love that Stefan has to keep going to school because Klaus compelled him to. Does that not seem just a tiny bit awesome?
Oooo Ric, nice parental moment.
Jeez, Stefan really doesn’t care anymore, he’s making a scene with a teacher, in front of witnesses! To Alaric’s credit though, he doesn’t seem at all phased by it.

Barbie Klaus has come to join in? “history’s my favourite subject.” So we have a repeat of last year’s Stefan and history moment.

This whole Vicki coming back thing reeks of bad things about to happen. I don’t trust her. In fact I’m not even very pleased to see her.
So basically, she could come and go but still only be able to communicate with Matt? How is this better? I mean Matt seems to think about her an awful lot. She’s practically there all the time.
“You’ll still be a ghost Vic.”
“In a town full of vampire, witches and werewolves – I’ll fit right in.” Touché.

So Team Anna right now. And probably always – I’ve always had a soft spot for her.

Hold on, if she’s communicating with a witch then Vicki isn’t exactly ‘all alone’ on the ghost side. Someone isn’t telling the whole truth and I want to find out properly about these ghosts and what they mean.

“Has anybody seen Dana?” I’m glad someone noticed she died. This show is always good for people acknowledging the death of the characters brought in to be murdered.

Uhho – Rebekah a cheerleader? This can never end well? Barbie Klaus and Vampire Barbie are going to spontaneously combust at some point in the near future. It’s going to be awesome.
“I’m only interested in yours – your spunk, your popularity, maybe even your boyfriend...” Oooo, shits about to go down Rebekah sweetheart, you picked the wrong blonde to mess with.

I know Tyler’s new to this and therefore enjoying the perks, but seriously, he’s back to being the douche bag from season 1 all over again. I didn’t like that Tyler.
“Klaus has given me this – gift.”
“WHAT?” Sock him one, just a little bit. He’s earning it.
“Damn, girl’s got moves.”
So maybe Caroline might have her hands full over the next few weeks…

“I’m the guy who’s been assigned to protect the human blood bag.” Epically evil. I love that when she storms off he doesn’t seem to understand what he said/did. Good going Salvatore.

Mikael is getting really good at this playing dead thing.

“What are you going to bench press a vampire?” I think Damon might win for awesome lines tonight. “Come on Buffy!”
“You called, I’m here – what’s your plan oh warrior princess?”
“Every single time I look at him, I feel like I’m going to break, and I’m not going to give him that satisfaction.” I like strong feisty Elena, she’s so much more of a match for Damon like this.

Holy smokes… That scene is actually steaming. I may need a moment.
Before it’s always been very aggressive whenever Damon has manhandled Elena, so it hasn’t actually been all that alluring. However the balance has changed. There’s been all this talk about Damon needing to change to be with Elena, but actually she’s needed to change as well. Weak willed Elena who’ll roll over and play dead was no match for him. Whereas Katherine, Rose and Andie were all strong enough to raise an eyebrow and say no. In the books Damon wants Elena because she’s so strong and fierce and could easily be his Princess of Darkness. He worships her because of that.
I think this scene is one of their best because both of them have changed. Damon is less needy and aggressive with her, he’s had confirmation that she cares, so his top priority is keeping her safe, rather than seducing her. And I think it’s partly that that is seducing her in the first place. Because in almost every scene between the two of them, Elena’s eyes spend 70% of the time on Damon’s lips.
She’s stopped grimacing at the very thought of Damon and now seems to actively want him (note the writhing against him when he touches her to indicate where a vampire is vulnerable.)
So yeah, speech over. Suffice to say, I am totally on board and really think that something might actually happen between them now, something real. It’s just a matter of the right moment – and neither of the screwing up before that happens. Cos lets’ face it, the tension? Through the roof right now.

Yay for drunken parties on school property/advertised at school!

And planning! By lamp light! In the history classroom! How all the best schemes have begun.
“Last I checked we were out of daggers.”
“So then preoccupy her with your charm.”
“Might have better luck finding the dagger.” Oh Ric, when will you recommence your bro-mance with Damon? It was such a beautiful thing. Yes he’s a silly boy who probably shouldn’t go around killing friends when they’re in his way, but we all make mistakes! Give him a second chance?
“Are you ever not going to be mad at me Ric?”
“Doubtful.” Aw, shucks.

Yes! So glad that they’ve brought in and explained the sired part of the vampire lore. It’s a really great place to introduce it and it works brilliantly as part of the hybrid mentality – perhaps because of the pack mentality being part wolf? Also raises the stakes on how long Tyler is going to last being whipped by Klaus…

“You think I’m going to let a blood addict tell me how to drink?” Score one Gilbert. Stefan is really being a jerk to her this episode – is it all because he’s switched off, or does he find it easier to be a jerk to her when he can’t be anything else for her?
Did Elena knock Rebekah’s drink into her?...

Matt has a house! And a basement! And candles! And a weird trust in his slightly crazy dead sister, but you know…
Smoking blood, perfectly natural. WHY DID HE NOT CALL BONNIE???
As much as I dislike/don’t trust Vicki, I do love that Matt gets to have this hug and to just hold his dead sister for a few moments. The poor guy has been through so much and missed her so much, it’s just really touching and sweet.

“Matt’s trying to resurrect his dead sister! I think I’ll go deal with that instead.” Stop dodging your relationship Miss Bennet, it’s your fault he can see them in the first place!

Vicki’s like a kid in a sweet shop.
MATTY! I can’t believe she just wrenched her own brother who just brought her back… Not cool Vicki, very not cool.

Elena’s getting drunk on her own, whilst Stefan watches her… This isn’t creepy at all. On the other hand, I am loving drunk Elena, she’s the best. Hell there are so many characters who seem to be three quarters alcohol most of the time, she may as well join them and have a little fun…

Haha, loving that Rebekah totally isn’t getting smores. Poor girl. She’s missed out on so much.
As yummy as Damon and Rebekah are being with all their marshmallow innuendos, it just doesn’t feel like he’s putting his heart into it.

Also loving Elena’s jealous perving on them and the marshmallows.
“Well my brother’s got his flirt on, and you’re jealous…”

I told you Vicki was no good – ten minutes on her own and she’s already getting stoned.

“I can’t believe you’ve never had one of these before!”
“Well I’ve been in a casket for 90 years.”
“That’s no excuse.” You’re right Damon, Klaus should have woken her up and systematically fed her smores over the years.

“You’re distracting me, why?” She’s one smart cookie, you got to give her points. Also, Damon should stay away from sharp pointy things.

Ok for all his attitude this episode, Tyler does get points for realizing he’s screwed up and trying to make things right with Caroline. He does at least seem capable of listening now instead of going off the rails like old Tyler would have done.
“Everything I like about me, is you.”

I think Elena got drunker.
“It’s the fun police! I thought Ripper Stefan was supposed to be the life of the party.”
“That’s it I’m driving you home… What are you five?!” Yes Stefan, alcohol makes Elena regress.

“You’re hilarious.” Ok when Stefan is a douche and Elena is drunk, the banter is great between them. She needs to lighten up and be mean to him more. I like this.

Firstly, points for catching her. Secondly, there has to be some of the old Stefan there somewhere because he holds onto her instead of letting her go straight away. I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes because no matter what they’re doing there’s still chemistry between the two of them.

Nice shot. And it worked, highly impressed. Apparently the key is to distract Stefan with distressed damsels. Actually I think that would work on either Salvatore.
“You look not sober.” Alaric? Pot, Kettle, Black.

Vicki? No good can come of this. Also, whilst I like the storyline, for some reason Matt and Bonnie are really irritating me this episode. Not quite sure why though.

I don’t think this could be classed as Elena’s day. Also, what the hell Ric? Did you get bulletproof windows?!

Point of interest? Does Bonnie just carry around a bag full of massive candles ‘just in case’?

I’m impressed, even vervained up Stefan can kick in the back of the car.

“I just didn’t want to be alone anymore.”
“Neither did I – but I have to let you go.” Three cheers for Matt for finally moving on and letting go. And laying her to rest. It’s been a while. Lets hope Katherine comes back and makes Matt a happy boy for a while. Or Rebekah, that could be fun.

I guess Alaric’s going to need a new car then. Maybe Damon could buy him one and they’ll love each other again?

“Elena! You almost got barbequed the least I can do is apply first aid.” Damon also seems to be coping a little better with Elena dying and him not being there to stop it. He’s growing as a person.

“You played your part of the plan really well tonight. You had Rebekah drooling all over you and your marshmallows.” Could she sound any bitterer?

“Thought you were too drunk to notice?”
“I was faking most of it.”
“So was I.”

Seriously these two are having some awesomely intimate moments this episode. That sound you can hear are thousands of Delena fans screaming ecstasy. Again.

Urgh Ric, I hate you right now for interrupting. That was so one of the potential moments for kissing of the not on death bed variety. Quel Sigh.
Damon seems to genuinely miss Ric, I hope they actually manage to patch things up again and soon. Otherwise Damon might start sending flowers, and chocolate, and gift wrapped cars…

“You have to earn the overnighter.”
“I consider that a challenge.”
He’s pretty much naked, how can you actually resist him right now you crazy fool?
Tyler, you are a bad boy. And not the fun variety. I will admit my heart sank a little bit when he indulged. Poor Caroline, things are not going to be pretty when she finds out. Also, Rebekah is a mix. Enough said.

Mikael’s voice melts me. If he is the father, I understand where Elijah got it from…
Oooo so he does only feed on vampires! Interesting.
I honestly don’t think Katherine is dead from this. Whilst it would be an immense shocker if she was, I think Plec, Williamson and Dobrev are all having too much fun to kill Katherine at this stage in such a way when there is so much more left for her to do, so many ends to tie – and when she does die, if she does, it will be in an epic all guns blazing kind of way.

“It’s ok if you want to be friends with Damon again.”
“I don’t.”
“I think he kind of misses you.” That’s the understatement of the century…

“After everything I’ve done you still think I’ll be able to find my humanity again?”
“Yes, I do. I know who you really are, better than anyone Stefan, and I’m not giving up.”
“Elena, do you have any idea how pathetic that makes you?”
“No Stefan, it makes me strong.”
YES! 100 points to Gilbert! Salvatore? You got owned…

Love Ric’s smirk.
You deserved that Stefan.

Jeremy, possibly not the best tone of voice to use when leaving a message for your very pissed off girlfriend.
Possibly also not the best idea to think of your dead ex-girlfriend whilst you’re doing it.
“The problem is, I don’t think I can stop thinking about you.”
“I can’t stop thinking about you either.”
Oh these two are just so tragically wonderful. I may cry. And now they can feel each other! Yay!

Poor Damon just cannot catch a break with people wrecking his house.

OMG UNCLE MASON! Oh baby we’ve missed you! Although it would be great if you could not mar Damon’s pretty face in the process of being very grumpy that he tortured you and ripped your heart out…
And if you’re still after the moonstone, you’re about a season too late. Sorry.

So? What did you think? After last week it was never going to be a show stopping episode, but it was still really solid. There was chance for every story line to progress, lots of character development and a few more shocking twists. AND I LOVE IT.
Your thoughts? Will Katherine make it? What will Mason do? And will Damon and Elena ever get a moment together without someone interrupting?

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Review: Blood Bound by Rachel Vincent

Bound by blood, condemned by fate 
As a bloodtracker, Liv is extremely powerful. And in a world where power is a commodity that can get you killed, Liv's learnt to survive by her own rules. 
Rule number one? 
Trust no one. 
But when a friend's daughter goes missing, Liv is bound by a potent magical oath. She can't rest until the child is safe. 
And that means trusting her dangerous ex, Cam. 
A sinister prophecy tells that she and Cam will be the death of each other, yet Liv's tired of being a slave to destiny. She's ready to play the forces controlling her world at their own game. 
No matter what the cost.

I really enjoyed Rachel Vincent’s young adult series about Banshees, so I was curious to see what happened when the stakes were upped and we went on to adult. And oh my word, it was epic. I mean, the young adult series is brilliant, but now it kind of feels like there was something missing, and that missing component was in ‘Blood Bound’.

The setting was brilliant – a dark gritty place that felt like it was never fully light in my imagination. It was brilliant, a city split into three with two major powers fighting for allegiances over a dwindling number of people that are free. The entire concept appealed to me on every level. 

Liv was a hard fighting girl with a softer side, but one who wasn’t afraid to do nasty things to people who hurt those she loved. She comes across really well, pitched absolutely brilliantly so she doesn’t come across as an unfeeling bitch, but is hard enough that the respect she’s garnered is completely believable.

I liked the changing perspectives between Liv and Cam – I did find Cam’s voice a little bit too feminine to start with, but it settles down further into the novel and completely swept me away.

The host of secondary characters are really well constructed and provide a wealth of backstory that really drives the plot forward. And the plot, oh wow. It’s just bursting with awesomeness. The whole premise of Skilled people and the different types of skills. I loved Liv being able to track people by their blood, but I’m afraid the Traveller’s really took it for me – walking through one shadow and coming out in another shadow anywhere you want? Oh I want a Skill please…

I loved that you literally couldn’t trust anyone. Seriously, the twists and turns and punches to the gut had me reeling all the way through. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on how things may go, Vincent completely whips the rug out from under you.

The only thing I found a little bit frustrating was the pacing. There’s all this fabulous build up, and then I realized that there were only 40 or so pages left of the book, and it just didn’t seem like enough time to come to a satisfactory conclusion. Vincent does actually pull it off, and exceptionally well, and maybe that brief amount of time makes everything that much quicker and gut wrenching, but I did feel like I wanted a little more of it.

With the promise of a second book ‘Shadow Bound’ I am completely on board with this series – it’s everything I love in an urban fantasy book, and I can’t wait to see where Vincent takes this next.

Review: Twilight the Graphic Novel Volume II by Stephenie Meyer & Young Kim

Having uncovered the dark secret of her enigmatic classmate, Edward Cullen, Bella Swan embraces her feelings for him, trusting Edward to keep her safe despite the risks. When a rival clan of vampires makes its way into Forks, though, the danger to Bella has never been more real. Will she make the ultimate sacrifice to protect the people dearest to her?
The second volume of Twilight: The Graphic Novel completes the visual adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's worldwide bestselling debut novel and is a must-have for any collector's library.

I really loved the Twilight books when they first came out – this was back before they got big. They were a beautiful form of escapism whilst my Grandmother was dying, and so they’ve always stayed on my shelf as a chicken soup when I’m feeling pants.

Then the films came out and I lost interest, I really dislike the films – pretty much everything about them, although I will admit that they do seem to get better slightly the further into the series we get. Anyway, the films kind of ruined the series for me. But then the graphic novel came along, and I was tempted to leave it and not bother, but then I saw a couple of examples of the artwork and I was hooked. I mean Young Kim’s drawings are stunning.

With the book split into two, there was a long wait for this volume to come out, but now here it is (finally) and the second half of the book has finally been taken into Young Kim’s talented hands.

The reason I love these books so much is partly because the artwork is so incredibly beautiful, but also because she hasn’t been influenced by the film franchise at all. Gone are Pattinson and Stewart’s wooden portrayals – instead we have Bella and Edward exactly as I imagined them. The detail is incredible, the drawings stunning, and it brought the story to life again for me. I was faced once again with all the things I loved about the series originally without the films dragging it down.

The graphic novel stays very true to the original book, so little things that are forgotten in the films are brought back in and is so good to see the complete story here.

Whether you are a fan of the books or the films or both, or maybe if you’re not really a fan of the series at all, I still recommend trying the graphic novels. The artwork brings the story to life, the writing is stripped right down to the basics, and it’s a beautiful format to explore the story in.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Gossip Girl Review: Memoirs of an Invisible Dan

So after the last couple of seasons I’ve been reluctant to come back and review Gossip Girl for its fifth season. But we go way back, so you know, I thought I should at least give it a chance… So I watched the first episode and was pleasantly surprised, but I didn’t get my hopes up. And then the second episode was really good as well, and I started to get a little bit excited, and then the third episode was fabulous. So I was really thinking that maybe we might be able to make things work after all.

And then this, the fourth episode came along ‘Memoirs of an Invisible Dan’ and you know what, I am completely sold. This was possibly one of the best episodes ever of Gossip Girl. Not because it was full of humour, or schemes and plots and backstabbing galore. No I think this was the best episode because of the emotion behind it. With Dan being the newly announced author of 'Inside' the group is fraught with tensions as literary licence is taken to new levels and no-one seems happy with how they've been portrayed.

I think that Dan’s book is one of the best storylines from Gossip Girl, it gives us true character development and actual substance instead of flimsy things with plot holes miles wide.  Using it to satirize the show is pure genius, and it really took the whole thing to a level that we don’t normally get to see on Gossip Girl.

I loved the little clips of the book interspersed as different people read ‘Inside’ it gave us a clue of what Dan had actually written, and we got to see some of his artistic licence, as well as some of the reactions.
Tied for most heart breaking would have to be Chuck and Rufus.
On the upside we got to see Rufus have a decent scene – I for one wanted to hug him at the end. But it was tragic that Dan had even managed to alienate his father with his work. (Soundtrack Junkie moment – Embrace by Chase & Status & White Lies)

I’m really not fussed on Serena or Charlie/Ivy at the moment. Serena proved once again how completely self-absorbed she is, most notably with the comment to Dan about her crisis being more important than Blair’s. She had so much potential and when she was Dan, but it feels like since they broke up she’s just turned back into the same girl, and hasn’t learnt anything.

Speaking of not being fussed on storylines, is anyone paying much attention to Nate these days? I really couldn’t care less about his plot at the moment, he never seems to get anything decent, and unless this plot seriously pulls it out of the bag, this one doesn’t look any different.

Whilst there was less of a focus on Blair this episode, she is still proving to be pretty fabulous this series. The previous three episodes she has practically carried, and I can’t wait to see where her storyline goes – it’s Gossip Girl, it’s unlikely to be your traditional fairy tale.

I was curious about what they’d do with Chuck now they’ve finished the Chuck Blair storyline (for now) because he does tend to dip off the radar when he’s not scheming/smooching with Blair.

However we’ve been treated to another set of fabulous scenes with Ed Westwick, the likes of which we haven’t been treated to since Season 2. I found him not being able to feel a little bit ridiculous, but that did at least lead us to the unlikely friendship between him and Dan – one I am more than a little bit in love with. I thought Dan and Nate were the ultimate romance, but I’ve been proved wrong. “I could tickle you?” Followed by the buying of a pet dog. GENIUS.

I was moved to tears at the end of episode three when Blair came and told him about the pregnancy, and I wasn’t sure they could top that scene this week, but they so did. It wasn’t a particular scene so much as Chuck’s entire attitude, his realization that he doesn’t have love, he doesn’t really have friends now they’re all busy doing work, and that if he did hang himself in the closet, it would most likely be the staff that would find him.
Whilst I’m enjoying the new depths of character we’re finding, I do hope things begin to cheer up for him soon, otherwise he’s going to be forced to adopt a whole pound of puppies to keep him in cuddles.

So all in all it was a brilliant episode. It brought everyone together, whilst furthering a lot of individual storylines, and felt like a really pivotal episode. Dan is well and truly hoist by his own ambition and ego, and it’s going to be interesting viewing watching to see how he tries to rebuild those bridges.
In fact, how everyone rebuilds their bridges – there are a lot of lonely islands this week, not just on Dan’s side of the bridge.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

The Vampire Diaries Review: The Reckoning

Previously on The Vampire Diaries: BAD THINGS HAPPENED, and it’s about to get worse y’all… Klaus is baaaack…

This is terrifying, and we’re a minute in… Good sense of foreboding VD. You know sometimes it’s the episodes that practically take place in real time that are the best, I hope this holds true…

Ha! Loving the mousetraps all over the floor. Although that is going to be a bitch to reset them all…
I also love that Caroline is marshalling the troops into having fun in a normal teenage way for once. I also love how pissed off they are that they’re going to have to reset all of the traps. I have so been there. That’s the most genius set up of mousetraps evah.
“Where are you going?”
“To super glue Alaric’s desk shut. I’m making memories.”
Seriously guys? These are the best pranks you’ve got? The mousetraps I grant you but the rest is pants.
Although the glee on Tyler’s face as he marshals his boys is highly amusing.

HI KLAUS. I think he’s been working on his super stealthy ninja moves on the road from Chicago. Loving that he wastes no time in getting down to business.

Can we just take a moment to appreciate the soundtrack junkieness of TV on the Radio being used again in a Damon scene. The song “DLZ” was used when Damon went schiz and killed that girl in the road in season 2, and now “Will Do” is playing in the car. “Oh stop being cute.” LOVE.

Also, whilst I really don’t ship Damon and Katherine, can we also take a moment to appreciate the sheer hotness of this make out, and also the fact that it’s awesome to have a vampire boy driving because you can make out and not hit anything! Seriously, hotness, plus awesomeness for the testing and then shoving her away. Mind you, it could just be because it’s Somerhalder and Dobrev and boy is their chemistry intense.

I love that after only four minutes, Damon and Katherine have made out, Matt has worked out, Seniors have pranked, and Klaus has shown up and is hauling Elena’s ass around. This show doesn’t waste any time does it.

“Consider me jealous.” Rebekah is fierce and all kinds of awesome. Although Klaus did warn Stefan that Rebekah’s  temper is worse than his…Also, Klaus needs therapy if his idea of a fun afternoon is repeatedly snapping Stefan’s neck. I mean I can see the appeal, it’s like a never ending toy! I am having a brief moment of wondering why Rebekah never unleashes the rest of the family when Klaus has left her alone. Is she compelled not to? Is she scared? Or does she hate them all so much and just love being the centre of attention?

“Why don’t you just kill me?”
“Not until I know I’m right, but I do have ways of making you suffer.” Ah Klaus, the ever practical torture machine.
Klaus’s accent is awesome, and creepy. Which makes it awepy?...

Oh Dana… “Oh don’t worry, I wasn’t in my right head last time we met…” HA.
“If she drops her foot I want you to beat her to death.” Smooth Klaus, you sure do know how to charm the ladies…

“Thought we could stretch our legs – take a break from the sexual tension.”
KATHERINE HAS JEREMY IN THE TRUNK OF HER CAR? Oh Elena ain’t gonna be happy…

When Caroline and Tyler aren’t collectively breaking my heart they are being so cute it’s unreal. Seriously, these two are like my favourite couple at the moment, they are so sweet with each other. And it’s normal moments like this that really highlight that.

“I love how big your heart is.” That’s like one step away from I love you…

This is excellent, the who are you moment, followed by the, she knows too much moment, where Caroline thinks, takes a beat, and moves in front of Tyler. The dynamics of this relationship are so twistedly fab.
“And who are you?”
“I’m the new girl.”
Followed by the ‘oh shit she’s actually a really scary vampire’ moment. Vampire Barbie, you’ve got a new blonde bitch to beat out.

Finally Matt actually gets to talk to someone. We don’t get many scenes with these two, but they work really well as friends, and I hope they carry on like this, because Matt really needs someone to talk to.
“And now Elena’s dating a vampire, you’re a witch, my sister’s a ghost, and I’m just a guy who’s wondering how his life got so screwed up.” Everybody hug Matt now. He needs to be told that it’s ok to grieve, because he doesn’t seem to be able to get past that, he keeps trying to be ok and not really dealing with it.

Oh good, Vicki’s back and moving stuff around, this can never end well.

“I’d like you all to meet my sister, Rebekah. Word of warning, she can be quite mean.”
“Don’t be an arse.”

Is this the first time Matt has actually been present for the shit hitting the fan? It sure looks like it. That boy looks mad.

The look in Tyler’s eyes just before Klaus snaps his neck is unreal. So terrified.
The look on Klaus’s face when he snaps Tyler’s neck is also unreal, but for entirely different reasons.

“So this is the latest doppelganger – the original one was much prettier.” I heart Rebekah so much right now.

Considering this is Matt’s first major crisis (if you don’t count being stuck with a hungry werewolf with a vampire in a small confined space) he’s coping pretty well, and definitely keeping up. This boy should be included in all future crisis situations, I bet he’d do something clever, like get a gun.

“I’d say you were desperate, or lying, or drunk… Or a desperate, lying drunk.”  Katherine’s one true friendship was based on blackmail and leverage, I love it.

“He’s not going to hurt me, he already said that – ” SMACK. Ow.
How long do you reckon Klaus has been waiting to smack her? He put a lot of feeling into it.

Stefan is so bad at lying it’s not even funny.

On a side note, some of the shots in this episode are gorgeously done.

I love that we really get to see how awful compulsions can be, it proves a point over why the MF vamps don’t use them much. I also love (and have since it was introduced) this idea that Original’s can compel even vampires. It’s so awful and creepy.

FINALLY. Elena actually looks scared and shocked at what Stefan is doing. Mean you know she’s justifying it in her head, but it seems to be getting through to her at last on some level that Stefan is not ok, is not fixable, and what he is doing is kind of above and beyond Damon right now…
Although where is the ripping limb from limb?

“I think your witchy girlfriend is worried that you’ve run away with your ghostly lover.” That should be a plot for a soap…

Love the looks on Katherine and Damon’s faces when Jeremy sounds like he’s lost it talking to thin air…
“My advice, you want to make an omelette you have to break a few legs.” Good call Katherine.

Also loving the craziness of this scene – all four of them but with only Jeremy seeing Anna and the other two just talking to random bits of air…

Oooo she’s stolen Caroline’s phone and is taking pictures of herself. Ultimate girl faux pas.
“He’s dead – ish.”

“Always nice to see a vampire in his true element – the species have become such a broody lot.”
“You did this to him.”
“No. I invited him to the party love – he’s the one dancing on the tables.”
Um, where can we get footage of Stefan table dancing? I wants it now please, ta.

I love how bratty Rebekah is, and yet how much I still love her. She’s kind of like bratty Caroline, but meaner. And she is awesome.
Also love that she has no qualms about hurting people, and not in the Klaus ‘hey don’t put your foot down or he’ll bludgeon you to death!’ way, and more in the ‘you bitch!’ *fangs* kind of way. It’s like the vampire equivalent of hair pulling.

A clock? Can this guy get any crueller or screwed up? Probably.

SERIOUSLY. “don’t do this to HIM.” Does this girl have no sense of self preservation?...

Oh dear god Matt NO.
Surely you’d think he’d wait until Bonnie was there to pull him out sooner? I mean I know she’s a witch, but she still can’t run very fast. However at least Bonnie has no hesitations about saving him. You just know Elena would have dithered for a few minutes.

 “Don’t fall asleep – you might have a concussion”
“Thanks for the concern, dick.”
I love that Jeremy doesn’t have any hero worship left for Damon, he’s drown up in a lot of ways (look at those abs!) and he’s amazing to watch.

“Oh stop pouting, you took one for the team! I’ll bring you back a thank you once Klaus is dead.”

“The Damon I remember wouldn’t have been that stupid.”
“I wouldn’t have done it for you.”

That scene is heartbreaking, I really wasn’t sure if he was going to make it for a couple of minutes, and it was just so desperate. I mean I know all of them do stupid things for people they love, but I don’t think any of them have committed suicide. It was tragic, and I kind of just want to cry. Although I’m not sure how much I trust ghostvicki right now. I mean who nudges their brother to suicide just so they can talk to him?

“Maybe it’s just mind control, maybe it just takes some focus, a couple of decades of training.”
I love Stefan right now, his humour and sarcasm is so much better when he’s being a badass.

Thank god, at last she’s fighting and not just denying.
“But I can’t help what I am.” At last. It’s not just about good and bad, it’s about their very nature, a nature it’s unnatural to deny.

“As soon as you’re feeling better, I’m going to kill you.” Go Bonnie, you kick some ass.

“Given the choice, doppelganger or hybrid, I’d go hybrid every time.” Klaus, the voice of reason. Why does everyone assume that if someone is up in the live/die stakes against Elena, she is always going to win and they’re doomed?

I love Stefan fighting as much as I loved Elijah stuck in a house he wasn’t invited in to. It’s brilliant and I love it, and I love how frightening the thudding slams coming after her are. It’s awesome.

And of course Elena runs into Klaus… “We’ve got to stop meeting like this.” How can he be flirty and sexy and suave at a time like this?!

And in the space of ten minutes we see the second person try to kill themselves in a bid to save those they love.

Klaus is fascinating, he really doesn’t want to compel Stefan because he wants Stefan to choose him without compulsion. The attempts to persuade before he gets really pissed and compels him are amazing.

Stefan’s agonized ‘no’ breaks my heart (plus the fab music) and that look on Klaus’ face just after he’s compelled him looks almost like he doesn’t quite believe what he’s done, that he might be just a little bit unsure.

“I fixed him.” And again, I love this idea of ‘fixing’ people. Like with Caroline’s dad, this need to make people how we think they should be.
‘Fixed’ Stefan is actually amazing. Terrifying, sure, but amazing.

“Does that mean we can kill her?!” The hope and joy in Rebekah’s voice is awesome. She’s just a little girl who’s jealous someone else has been playing with her toys really.

Tyler is so good at breaking my heart with his pain.
Well I guess that answers that question…

This is terrifying. She’s in a hospital, being slowly drained of blood, and sedated by a compelled nurse. Not cool Klaus, not cool.

It’s a major achievement both to the show and the actors that they can take a character like Klaus who is really really evil, and yet make him seem relatable and human. He doesn’t want to be alone and he’ll do anything to try and stop that from happening (including you know, killing his family and trucking round with them in their coffins in the back) and you get to see that vulnerability.

Also, it’s a pretty major awesome moment when you see that Damon is not going to stop when it comes to Elena. He will go anywhere, do anything, fight anyone and even die for her.

I love that Damon is angry enough and desperate enough that he doesn’t even bother with Klaus to start with, he just wants to get to her.
Although I cannot wait to meet Michael if he scares the pants off Klaus that easily.

This breaks my heart all over again, Damon ripping out the tubes, and the look on his face when she comes to, and then just scooping her up and out of there – and she doesn’t even fight, just reaches for him.

I’m so glad that Caroline looks worried at how buzzed Tyler is about being a werepire? I mean yeah sure, he’s alive, they have eternity etc etc. But really, there are gonna be consequences, and it scares me how ok he seems.
(Although yay for Forward)

Matt can see Vicki now? Like for ever, or just for a little bit? And this can only end in tears. It’s the Vampire Diaries, it’s the only way it can possibly end…

I’m so glad Matt and Bonnie have sorted out a friendship though, if anyone needs a friend right now, it’s Matt, the poor guy has been through so much.

Bourbon solves everything. Fact.
Also, Damon actually asks if she’d like to forget instead of just doing it. He’s growing as a person. Even if it does seem to break his heart that he can’t help her in that way.

It’s breaking my heart (some more, you know, more like stomping on the pieces still left over from earlier.) Damon is trying so hard to help her in every way he can, but he still looks so lost and broken that he wasn’t there for her when she actually needed him, although let’s face it, if he had been there, chances are he would have been chow food for Rebekah/Klaus/Stefan.

“Where were you Damon?” I think mine and Damon’s ( and you know, millions of Delena shippers across the world) just had our hearts break a littler at how telling and vulnerable Elena is right now.

I find it particularly interesting considering at the end of the last episode Elena was pissed and Damon ran away. I know this girl has a short term memory, but you have to wonder what was going through her head whilst Stefan was being a douche (other than help, he loves me, and run.) Was she waiting for Damon to show up and save her in the nick of time? Because he does have a good track record for that.

“I promise you, I will never leave you again.” I need a moment.

Oh my word how the tables have turned. Stefan is actually scary (and scarily good.) He snarks, he drinks, he motions for them to continue eye sexing each other up as he leaves.

“From now on, you are under my protection.” I can see Damon setting up a tent in Elena’s room to protect her at this rate.
“Oh, by all means, carry on.”

Love the look between Damon and Elena as he leaves, there are so many interpretations!
1) Did he mean it? Let’s make out!
2) He’s cray cray
3) Pls take me far away from here. Like now. Srsly.

Do the ghosts have bing on their side? Cause they sure do know a lot all of a sudden.

Katherine does not look nearly scared enough. Why is she not fleeing as fast as she can?... If Klaus is scared of him, you can bet your ass that he’s going to be one hell of a screwed up maniac.

So… Thoughts?

I loved it, Plec was right, this was a serious game changer episode, to the point that I just sat in a corner and gaped at my screen for a good ten minutes after finishing.
Stefan has officially fallen off the sanity train, although Katherine might not be far behind if she keeps hanging around Michael. Jeremy has got competition on who can see the most ghosts, and Damon actually stands a chance with Elena… So long as she doesn’t die next week in that burning car we see in the promo…