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Thursday, April 5, 2018

Why I Gave Up -- A Failed Reading Challenge

When I set out to read more vampire books in the hopes of finding something similar to Twilight (to catch up on what & why, please read THIS), it had been my intention to blog about each book as I finished them. And I was doing well for a while--I read and blogged about The Vampire Diaries. (Here, here, and here) But then I moved onto the next book on my list and ooohhhh boy!

I'm one of those people who, when I start a book, I have to finish it. I always hold out hope it might get better, or that I might change my mind and start to like the story. After years of reading, I should know myself better by now. lol. If I'm not fully engaged by chapter three (five at the most) then it's safe to say I won't suddenly become engaged. I'm also one of those people who has a high tolerance for stuff--violence, cursing, sex, etc--but I do have some limits, which I'll get into here in a minute.

I have (easily) put down the last two books I've read and labeled them as DNF (did not finish).

After I reached my limit with The Vampire Diaries, I moved on to My Blood Approves by Amanda Hocking. It was a little...harsher than Twilight and TVD in terms of the main characters attitude and internal dialogue. But that didn't really bother me once the initial shock of it wore off. For the most part, I was engaged in the story. The pacing was a bit fast, and I was bummed there wasn't much in terms of high school setting / drama / conflict. I was able to get past that, though. What I couldn't get past was.... {{SPOILER ALERT}}.... The hero killed a dog.

The hero and heroine were walking in the park and were attacked by a rabid dog. The hero stops the dog from attacking the heroine and then kills the dog. The hero gets bitten, but heals quickly and has no real side effects, which clues in the heroine that something is off. Now, I fully get what the author was doing. The hero is a vampire, and so the author was looking for a unique way to show he's different, because let's be honest, in terms of vampire fiction, everything has been done to death. Pun intended ;-) But this rubbed me the wrong way. It was completely gratuitous, in my opinion. So, I stopped reading and moved on to the next book....

Laney (The Brookehaven Vampires #1) by Joann I. Martin Sowles. I didn't make it past chapter three. The premise of this one is great, and I was really excited at first because it seemed to have the nice, slow burn that I loved so much in Twilight. But the writing itself is...bad. Allow me to show you...

Chapter 1 -- "Oh, my!" Professor McBaldy Bald said all frantic-like, with his bird face and balding head.

Chapter 1 (same page) -- I just stared at Beautiful Boy, amazed by his beauty...

Now, I don't point these out to poke fun, but rather to show the quality of the writing. There was a lot of time spent on descriptions of rooms and furniture and driving and not nearly enough time on dialogue or characterization. The entire opening was like this, and I'm going to guess the rest of the book is, too, and I just can't. Yeah, I know Twilight droned on in places and there was a lot of telling, too, but it worked in that book because we were moving toward something. In this book, it felt like it was all there simply for filler, that it served no real purpose. *shrugs* If that makes me a writing / book snob, then so be it.

So, there are two more books on my list, and I'm admittedly weary to dive into them. I think, for the time being, I'm going to put them on hold and move on to other books on my TBR pile. Don't worry--I'll continue to blog about random things :-)


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Twilight vs The Vampire Diaries

For anyone who's been following along, you know I've been on a long quest to find a series that's similar to Twilight. (You can read that HERE.) Having recently read the first four and half books of the Vampire Diaries series, I thought I'd take a moment and compare the two.



So, does The Vampire Diaries compare to Twilight? Not even close.

I love TVD the show, but I'm not super impressed by the books. The books skip character development in favor of action and conflict. They move at a lightning fast pace, which makes it hard to build up much anticipation because I often had to go back and re-read sections to make sure I understood what was happening, and I was still confused most of the time.

Twilight, however, builds very slowly. There's a lot of time to get to know the characters and become invested in all the different relationships before the action and danger started.

I'm not saying TVD is worse than Twilight--it's just different. I will always have a soft spot for TVD because it has Damon. But all the things I love about Twilight--the slow burn, the focus on the characters and relationships versus the plot, the innocence and simplicity--just isn't present in TVD.

So, what do you think? Have you read either series? How do you think they compare? Which is your favorite? Sound off in the comments!


Monday, March 12, 2018

The Vampire Diaries (Book 5): This is a joke, right?

*Deep breaths* 

Before I dive into the insanity of this book, take a moment to catch up on my personal vampire reading challenge:


All caught up? Good. Let's get started then.

Book 5: The Return: Nightfall


I can sum up my thoughts about this book quite easily...


Okay, so, a bit of context. The fourth book was supposed to be the final book, and it was released in 1992. The TV show first aired in 2009. This fifth book, The Return: Nightfall, was published in 2009-- SEVENTEEN YEARS after the series ended. See what happened here? The TV show was starting and so the publisher probably decided to cash in on that and publish new books in the series, and let me tell you, this book reeks of a money grab. It is so far beyond ridiculous that I actually stopped reading and DNF-ed it. (Which is something I almost never do!)

As you'll recall, at the end of book 4, Elena had come back to life--again--but now she's an angel. I think. Or she's something like an angel. She has some sort of energy / power in her veins that makes her irresistible to vampires (or any supernatural creature, really) and everyone wants to steal her power and kill her in the process. Stefan is protecting her. Damon is still trying to claim her and wants to share her power so they can reign together. Her friends are, as always, super supportive. And there is, once again, a dark, evil force in town that they need to fight as soon as they figure out what it is.

But here's where I have a major issue.... In the book, Elena is in a child-like state. She can't read. She can barely speak, yet she can still write in her diary (???) She needs help getting dressed. Even her thoughts are very innocent / confused / child-like. She floats and needs someone to keep her grounded (literally). In fact, at one point, Stefan ties a rope to her waist and takes her for a walk!


Yeah, I wish I was kidding. But oh! It get's worse! Knowing she's extremely child-like, you'd think Stefan would morph into a guardian / protector / parent role. And he does. But he does more than that, too! This is from page 95 of the hardcover version. Pay special attention to the sections in the yellow box.



HE ACKNOWLEDGES SHE CAN'T GIVE COMPETENT CONSENT AND YET HE DOESN'T STOP!!!!

But this is where I stopped.

Yes, I know what you're thinking. But Kara, in Twilight Jacob imprints on Renesmee and that's just as gross / creepy. Why is that okay and this isn't? Well, for starters, I never said it was okay in Twilight, despite how much I love that series. Secondly, in Twilight, we don't see Jacob kissing or hugging or otherwise having physical / sexual thoughts and/or contact with her. For me, that's the difference, and yes, it is a fine line. But it's still a line I feel was crossed in The Return: Nightfall.

I honestly have no idea what happens in the rest of the book, and I don't plan to keep reading to find out. I'm officially done with this series and plan to move on to the next series.

Up next is My Blood Approves by Amanda Hocking. Stay tuned!



Monday, March 5, 2018

The Vampire Diaries (Books 3 & 4): Maybe this isn't so bad...

To catch up on my personal vampire reading challenge, read Post 1 and Post 2.



THE FURY (Book 3):
So, at the end of book two, Elena had driven off a bridge. Book three, The Fury, picks up right were the previous one ended (again, making it feel like I was simply reading the next chapter rather than starting a new book). In this book, Elena awakens alone, confused, disoriented and as a vampire. This part really bugged me. She's stumbling around, confused, and very childlike in her thoughts / actions. Knowing she's been in love with a vampire for however long now, it seems like she'd be a bit more...grounded in what she is and how she became that way. But, having never been a vampire myself, what do I know?

Stefan, thinking it was his brother that caused Elena's death, goes after Damon and the two are in the midst of a pretty ugly fight when Elena stumbles upon them. Having more of Damon's blood in her system and seeing him as her creator, she attacks Stefan out of fear that he will hurt Damon. Even though, up to this point, she's hated Damon and loved Stefan. Confused yet? Me too!


The fighting finally stops. Stefan is back to his whiny self, feeling bad for himself that Elena seems to have chosen Damon over him because she must love Damon more. No idea how / why he got that impression simply by her trying to protect her creator, but okay. Moving on.... They realize she's now a vampire, too, and they help her adjust.

There's a new vampire hunter in town--Alaric Saltzman (love his character!)--which adds to the conflict. While avoiding him, Damon, Stefan, and Elena attempt to figure out what evil presence is lurking in town. During Elena's funeral, some weird stuff begins happening, like all of the towns' pets turning on their owners. This is really where the story picked up for me, and I raced through to the end. We find out it's none other than Katherine causing all the trouble in town. She didn't die as Damon and Stefan had thought, and she's out for revenge against Elena for stealing the brothers' love. Elena feels guilty, stating she never wanted this to happen or to come between the brothers. She shoves Katherine into the sunlight and she dies. So does Elena. Again. (For good this time, right? Don't count on it!) But not before she makes Damon and Stefan promise to get along.

Overall, this book wasn't anywhere near as bad as the first two. Maybe because I was getting more familiar and comfortable with the characters. Or maybe because I was finally used to the author's writing style. Either way, I eagerly started book four...



DARK REUNION (Book 4):
At the start of this book, Elena is still dead, (it's been 6 months) and the story is told primarily from Bonnie's POV. I've never really been a fan of Bonnie (especially in the TV show), so this POV shift took some getting used to. Thankfully, it was fairly consistent, so that made it easier to stay engaged with the story. Like book three, I raced through this one. It was REALLY good! Probably my favorite of the series.

Bonnie and friends summon Elena using a Ouija board, and they make contact. Elena warns them of something evil. Bonnie then summons Stefan for help. Stefan returns, with Damon in tow. YAY DAMON! More weird stuff happens. We learn there's another (unknown) vampire in town, who ends up killing Vickie. We also find out Tyler is a werewolf and is in cahoots with this other vampire. We find out it's Klaus, one of the original vampires. He's just as evil in the book as he is in the TV show, but he's flat in the book. We don't get to know nearly enough about him or why he's in town causing trouble.

We get to the big battle at the end. Elena is there in spirit and calls upon other spirits to defeat Klaus. The good guys win, and it ends with Elena coming back to life as a....ready for this... AN ANGEL! Yes, you read that correctly. She dies as a human. Turns into a vampire. Dies again. Then is brought back as an angel. Everyone is super happy Elena is back. Happily-ever after. Roll the credits. The book is over.

But wait! HOW did she come back as an angel? WHY? What happens next?!?


It's never explained. We are left with more questions than answers. I mean, I'm glad there was a happy ending--who doesn't love a HEA?--but seriously. To just end with a human turned vampire turned angel and not give us any explanations? Shame on you, Ms. Smith! Now, I'm already peeved with this ending, but if I had been reading these books as they released, I would've bordered on ragey. But, thankfully, it's not the end :-)

Stay tuned for my review of The Return: Nightfall....


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Fab February (2018)

In an effort to stay positive, productive, and accountable, I've decided to check-in at the end of each month. I'll share what I've accomplished along with any ups or downs I've experienced. So, let's get to it...


WRITING: 
I got initial feedback on my YA paranormal romance. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but it wasn't a complete surprise, either. So, I've brainstormed with some writing friends and come up with a brand new opening. I'm slowly working on it, but it's not going as fast as I'd like. The good news is that the new first chapter is hitting the mark with my beta readers, so I know I'm on the right track. I'm also still working on a Christmas novella for Anaiah--my initial idea wasn't working well, so I switched gears and started over. I've also morphed this single novella into a potential series. I'll share more information on that once I work out all the details.


QUERYING:
My co-author and I are still querying our YA thriller. We haven't sent any new queries this month, but we have gotten several more rejections.


EDITING:
I've been crazy busy with editing again. I sent developmental edits for a romantic suspense, content edits for a historical MG, and now I'm knee-deep in content edits for a contemporary YA -- all for Anaiah.


READING:
I only read one book for pleasure this month--Camp So-and-So by Mary McCoy--but sadly, it wasn't all that much fun. I was extremely disappointed with this book, and ended up DNF-ing it :-( I did another beta read this month; this time a contemporary romance with a sexy cowboy!


PERSONAL:
I, along with my kids, made a trip to NY to visit family. It wasn't a long trip, but it was a nice break, and it's always great to decompress and spend time with my parents. Sadly, while there, my son got sick with the stomach bug, and by the time we got home, he and one of my daughters came down with the flu. And now I think I'm getting it, too :-(

I've managed to make it to the gym a bit more this month, although not as much as I would have liked.


So, what has everyone else done in February? Is 2018 off to a good start for you? Share in the comments!

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Vampire Diaries (Books 1 & 2): All Bark and No Bite?

Before I dive into my review of this series, I need to preface this by saying I've watched the TV show multiple times, so I had that version and those characters in my head while reading. And even though I'd been thoroughly warned that the books were vastly different from the show, I still wasn't prepared for how different they are. If you haven't watched the show or read the books but want to, I suggest you stop reading right now because there are going to be major spoilers!



THE AWAKENING (Book 1):
I really disliked this book. Really disliked it. If I had to give it a star rating, I'd give it a 1 -- And I cringe at that because I hate giving poor reviews. As an author, I know how it stings. So, why didn't I like it? Well... The pacing was crazy fast. There were characters I wasn't used to. And OMG the head hopping! GAH! The characters I did know (and love) were not the same people, and that felt like a huge betrayal. Then again, had I read the books first then watched the TV show, I probably would've felt the same in reverse. The entire series was very episodic (no wonder it translated into a weekly TV show so easily) with each scene / chapter moving quickly with a lot of conflict and action. As such, there was almost no character development.

Elena was a stuck up, selfish snob who had no consideration whatsoever for her friends' wants or feelings. She used them to get what she wanted and never thought twice about it. I had no sympathy for her whatsoever--unlike the show, which made her a very sympathetic character right from the start.

Stefan was weak. Pathetically so. I know he's weaker physically because he drinks animal blood rather than human blood, but emotionally and mentally he was weak, too. And so whiny! I've always been #TeamDamon, but at least with the TV show, there was a chivalry and silent strength to Stefan that made him a good hero. I mean, that love triangle? WHOA! I seriously wonder if the author even likes Stefan with the way he's portrayed.

The supporting cast -- Caroline, Bonnie, Meredith, Matt, Aunt Judith, et al.-- weren't bad, but there wasn't really much characterization for any of them.

The plot was your typical vampire-human romance. Hello, Insta-love, my old friend ;-) There weren't enough pages in this book to build a believable romance. But I'm able to get past that because of the supernatural elements, and because I already know and love these characters from the show.

Stefan is the mysterious, handsome new guy in town. Popular Elena wants him, but he won't give her the time of day so she schemes to get him, and eventually does, but only after she happens upon him feeding on a bird. (Side note: If he's a vampire with super senses, how did he not hear or smell her coming??) Now that she knows his deepest secret, he gives in to their attraction. A bunch of people die. The town points the finger at Stefan, but Elena realizes it's his evil brother Damon. Stefan goes missing. Elena refuses to believe he left town because he's guilty and worries he's in trouble.

I was convinced I was not going to read anymore in this series. But then I got the end and holy cliffhanger! It ends with Elena screaming for Damon to show himself. This in and of itself angered me, too, because it literally stopped in the middle of the scene. Of course, I had to read the next book to find out what happened...




THE STRUGGLE (Book 2):
This book starts exactly where the previous one ended. It felt like I was simply starting the next chapter rather than beginning an entirely new book. Good thing I didn't have to wait months or years in between releases. I really wouldn't have been happy then!

The characters in this book were slightly better--maybe because I was becoming used to them. Elena wasn't as selfish and she didn't use her friends as much, either. That was refreshing. Stefan's still missing at the start of this book, so he didn't annoy me with his whining. There was a lot more Damon, too, which I LOVED! He was the same sexy, arrogant bad-boy that he is on the TV show.


The plot was a bit more exciting this time, too. Elena convinces Bonnie to embrace her budding witchy powers and tap into Stefan's mind in order to find him. She does, and they manage to find Stefan. With help from Matt and Meredith, Bonnie and Elena rescue Stefan. He's weak and badly beaten. They take him to his home, and Elena offers him her blood. He takes it. Then she takes a taste of his. She vows to keep his secret. He gets all better. Elena comes clean to her friends that Damon is the killer. They believe her without question. (Uh...okay??) She makes a deal with Damon and ends up sharing blood with him, too. Then she lies to Stefan about her encounter with Damon and his efforts to "have her." (That's true love right there!) Near the end of the book, Elena feels a presence in a brewing storm and while attempting to flee, she drives off a bridge.

Again, I convinced myself I wasn't going to read anymore, but then I was smacked with another cliffhanger, and I had to know what happens. It's so strange, because despite my complaints, I'm actually enjoying these books, and I have no idea why. Stay tuned for my reviews on the next two books: The Fury and Dark Reunion.




Have you read The Vampire Diaries? Have you watched the show? Share your thoughts in the comments!



Monday, February 19, 2018

Does the World Need Another Twilight?


Okay, let me back up and explain why I'm asking this question, especially about a book that was first released more than ten years ago. For anyone who knows me, you know I'm a HUGE Twilight fan. I mean, look at my bookshelf:



Four entire shelves dedicated to Twilight. And yes, those are in fact, the Twilight Saga dolls. #NotAshamed This picture doesn't reflect all the DVDs I have, because of course I have the all the movies and all the special features, too! Nor does it show the other stuff currently sitting in my Amazon cart that I haven't bought yet.

Now, I know Twilight isn't a literary masterpiece, but I'm not here to talk about the mechanics of the writing. I want to talk about the story itself and the characters. There's an innocence and simplicity to this series. A human girl falls in love with a vampire. That's the crux of it. Throughout four books, they deal with angry vampires, werewolves, and other conflict. The author, Stephenie Meyer, has said in numerous interviews that this story is about first love and all that entails. The healthiness or abusiveness of this relationship is a different post for a different day, but yes, I'm well aware of the arguments and limitations of this series. Putting that aside (for now), there's just something about this story and these characters that pulls you in. I haven't been able to pinpoint exactly what that is, and maybe that's why it's such a pop culture phenomenon.

For me, though, it's more than just the story. It's the story behind the story. The story of how a normal, stay-at-home mom wrote not one, but four books (well, technically six counting The Host and The Chemist). She is responsible for getting admitted non-readers to fall in love with reading. Through her writing, she united thousands of people which resulted in lifelong friendships and even writing partnerships. Personally, she gave me something to bring me and my oldest daughter closer during a time when things weren't so great between us, and it's something we still share to this day.



I even threw her a huge Twilight themed 13th birthday party...




Before Twilight, there was Harry Potter, which is arguably the most successful series of all time. Since Twilight, we've had The Hunger Games and Divergent, to name just a couple, but there really hasn't been anything as big as Twilight since it's release in 2005. Sure, lots of authors have written paranormal romance books about humans and vampires falling in love, but none of them are quite like Twilight. Now, I realize there will never be anything exactly like Twilight--believe me, I've tried to find something--which is what led to this post.

For years I've been trying to find another series that is similar to Twilight. When I say I want a book "similar to Twilight," what I mean is I want a book that's simple, a book that focuses primarily on the romance, a book that has the same kind of innocence. I want something that will suck me in and not let me go. I've Googled until I was cross-eyed, and while I've found numerous lists of books to read, it's not exactly what I'm looking for.

I have kept an open mind, though, and I have tried other authors and series. So, I have decided to share those other books with you. I will write a review and share my thoughts on why it is or isn't (strictly in my opinion) the "next Twilight."

Here are the books I currently have on my list:

  • My Blood Approves (The My Blood Approves Series) by Amanda Hocking
  • The Vampire Diaries by LJ Smith 
  • The Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
  • Evernight by Claudia Gray
  • Laney (The Brookehaven Vampires) by Joann I. Martin Sowles


When I get to the end of my similar-to-Twilight-TBR, I will have an exciting announcement for all of you, so I hope you'll stick around. In the meantime....back to my original question:

Does the world need another Twilight?


It doesn't necessarily have to be vampires, (although I wouldn't personally object if it was), but with the current state of affairs, I don't see anything wrong with another book or series taking the world by storm and uniting people over their mutual love of a story.

What do you think? Is it time for another Twilight? Are there any Twilight-like books you'd like me to read? Leave me your thoughts in the comments!