Monday, December 19, 2011

Ashes by Isla J Bick

So you know when you pick up a book in the shop (after having judged it by its cover, of course), what's your criteria for determining if you think the book'll be good or not? Mine's pretty simple: I look at the cover, I look at the back cover, I read the prologue & the first few lines. Then, usually, I have an idea about whether or not I think I'll be interested in the whole book.

Here is the back cover synopsis of Ashes:

Seventeen-year-old Alex is hiking through the wilderness when it happens: an earth-shattering electromagnetic pulse that destroys almost everything.

Survivors are divided between those who have developed a superhuman sense & those who have acquired a taste for human flesh. These flesh-hunters stalk the land: hungry, ruthless & increasingly clever...

Alex meets Tom, a young army veteran, & Ellie, a lost girl. They will fight together & be torn apart, but Alex must face the most difficult question of all: who can you trust?

So already this book ticks a couple of boxes. Standard YA pretty-girl's-face-half-obscured cover? Check! Dystopia? Awesome! Zombies? Has potential! Probably resourceful female protagonist? Excellent! So I open the book, & that's when it happens.

Picture the scene if you will: me, beautiful, gorgeous, exquisite, radiant reader standing in the book shop, too old to be in the children's section but looks about sixteen so nobody bats an eye, coming face to face with The Greatest Prologue Ever. Now, I'm not generally a big fan of prologues. I write them, I read them (it's very unusual to find a young adult book without one) but I very rarely find that they actually add to the story. Except this one. This prologue puts all other prologues to shame. This may be the Prologue to End All Prologues.

Within the first six pages of this Most Wonderful Prologue of All this is what you, the reader, learn: Alex is hiking completely alone. Her aunt Hannah (presumably her legal guardian) calls her, not knowing where she is. Alex has her father's gun. She is not suicidal but has been in the past. She also has a brain tumour & the treatments she's been taking aren't working so she wants to take this hike while she still can. She is competent & resourceful (& has a wonderful narrative voice - all wry humour & matter-of-factness) & this'll be the last time she'll ever speak to her aunt again.

And just like that, you're hooked. There is no way you can't buy this book. The protagonist is clever, she has a fascinating backstory, & you know that zombies are going to come along at any minute. So you buy the book & read on.

(Also, because I think everybody should read this book, this review will contain NO MAJOR SPOILERS. I hope.)

That hooked feeling of I can't stop reading now because Something Dramatic is going to happen that will Change Everything lasts for pretty much the entire book. Every chapter ends with a cliffhanger that is carefully placed for you to keep turning the pages as fast as you can. The sudden apocalypse in the middle of nowhere is pretty much standard zombie fare, but the distinction between those who die immediately & those who become zombies is very interesting, & the fact that Alex, Ellie & Tom are pretty much alone in the wilderness for most of the book actually amplifies the post-apocalyptic anxiety.

Ashes is more or less split into two halves. The first half is fast-paced & hell-for-leather. The three characters, Alex, nine-year-old Ellie & twenty-year-old army dude Tom are all equally fascinating, & their relationships are complex & human, & make a lot of sense in context. Still, Alex's relationship with every other character is tinged with varying levels of uncertainty. Even grumpy Ellie & love-interest Tom are potentially keeping big secrets. So the first half swoops you, the reader, up & doesn't put you down until approximately halfway through the book, when Alex finds herself in Rule, a cultish little town that proves to be strangely adept at keeping the zombies at bay.

After that, the action slows down significantly but by now you're almost grateful because you've developed craps from turning pages so quickly & you really need a cup of tea.

The second half of the book is paced very differently & almost loses its voice a little - Alex is suddenly a lot less Alexy - but the chapters set in Rule end up being a little like the Hallows-searching sections in Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows. A lot of readers thought those chapters were dull & lagging, but I like to see them as evidence of the writer emerging the reader in the characters' worlds. The characters feel bored & disillusioned, so the reader does too. I think that's what happens in Ashes. The various circumstances that bring Alex to Rule take their toll & so the character changes, & the story, so bound up in the character's narration, changes too. It's interesting in its own way, & it lets us see Alex, & the world she's suddenly woken up in - in a different light.

Then, about eight chapters from the end (this is a big book with small chapters), you forget everything I just said (just like you forget the fact that my pronouns are completely mixed up today) . The pace picks up, the action kick-starts again & within a few pages there's no way you're putting this book down again. By the time you close the book you're absolutely aching for the sequel, which, unfortunately, won't be available for another year.

Ashes, however, is. So if you like dystopias or zombies or survival-in-the-wilderness narratives or post-apocalyptic fiction (& who doesn't?) you really should at the very least read the Prologue of Amazingness. And I defy you not to read the whole book after that. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

November & Novels Oh My

So! I haven't written here in a long time, but I have a good reason, honest. Actually, I've got several. Mostly, my reasons are all about how I couldn't put words down here because I was using them all up elsewhere. Namely, my thesis & my NaNoWriMo novel.

I wrote over fifty thousand words in November & on the first of December I deleted about seven thousand of them & proceeded to rewrite them from scratch. I'm currently bumped back up, wordcount-wise (the whole thing will be somewhere between sixty & seventy thousand words), & coming in on the last section of the story, which is quite intense & a pretty exciting situation to be in - seeing this story I started just over a month ago come full circle, teasing out conclusions, letting my characters get as dramatic as they want to be because it's almost the end & endings are always dramatic.

The story is called The Accident Season & it's a young adult contemporary book imbued with enough magic realism to sink an airship & it has absolutely nothing to do with vampires, werewolves or any kind of remotely supernatural teen (okay, maybe there's a mention of ghosts & a tiny smidgeon of story-within-a-story fairies, but shush, that totally doesn't count) because I figure that as I spend every other waking moment thinking & reading & writing about vampires, it'd be nice to get a break every once in a while.

And it has been nice. It's been very nice. I'm happier with this than I have been with anything I've written for a long time (& I'm generally quite happy with what I write). Mostly, I've been having a lot of fun with it, which is sort of what writing's all about.

So although I'm sorry for neglecting this pretty little blog (seriously, look at that floral wallpaper, it's beautiful), I'm very glad I'm nearly finished the first draft of this pretty little book because I think it already has a lot of potential. I'll stop neglecting this place very soon. In fact I've kind of started now, haven't I? Because I have lots of things I want to write about, books I've read I'd like to review & Serious Academic Notes on Breaking Dawn that I'd like to share with those of you lucky enough not to be forced to sit through it because you're writing a thesis on teenage vampires. ("Why oh why???" is the lament of the moment, multiple exclamation marks & all.)

What about you guys, did you do NaNoWriMo this year? Any other year? (It's my third, I think, non-consecutive.) What did you write? How did you find it? What are you going to do with your stories now?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

(This isn't about The Vampire Diaries, sorry. I will totally catch up soon though, I promise.)

When faced with a book synopsis that starts with Rule #3: Don't stare at invisible faeries, I was equal parts intrigued & disinterested. I was intrigued because that's a really great line, & disinterested because faeries, really? The prologue had me a little wary (it seemed to be very much of the fairies, really? variety) but my disinterest soon became reading-on-the-bus interest & even reading-while-walking-from-one-bus-stop-to-the-next interest. So let me preface this review by saying that I liked the book. And that I bumped into a lot of people while reading it. And a couple of lampposts.

Here is the full inside-cover synopsis:

Rule #3: Don't stare at invisible faeries.
Aislinn has always seen faeries. Powerful & dangerous, they walk hidden in mortal world. Aislinn fears their cruelty - especially if they learn of her Sight - & wishes she were as blind to their presence as other teens.

Rule #2: Don't speak to invisible faeries.
Now faeries are stalking her. One of them, Keenan, who is equal parts terrifying and alluring, is trying to talk to her, asking questions Aislinn is afraid to answer.

Rule #1: Don't ever attract their attention.
But it's too late. Keenan is the Summer King & has sought his queen for nine centuries. Without her, summer itself will perish. He is determined that Aislinn will become the Summer Queen at any cost...

(There will probably be spoilers in the rest of this review, so don't read it if you plan on reading the book. Unless you like spoilers. Some people are into that sort of thing.)

Aislinn is a pool-playing, rock-music-loving teenager who is just a little bit traumatised by the pretty horrific acts that faeries do to & around humans without our knowledge. She's always ignored the faeries she can see, until one of them becomes strangely fascinated by her & won't stop following her around. She finally confides in her friend-&-sort-of-love-interest Seth, & they decide to find out what Keenan the faerie Summer King & his tragic Winter Girl Donia want with her.

What Keenan wants is for her to be his queen, because that's ultimately what all men faeries want. He has also wanted a lot of other girls to be his queen in the last few centuries but only his One True Love can hold the staff of the Winter Queen without being burned by the frost & any girl who fails becomes a cold, bitter Winter Girl, endlessly bound to Keenan & always in pain, waiting for the next girl he chooses to try to take the staff. Any girl with whom Keenan falls in love becomes marked & begins to change into a faerie, so those who choose to try taking the staff & fail become pain-filled Winter Girls & those who refuse to try become pleasure-seeking Summer Girls. Women of both seasons are equally bound to Keenan. Overseeing all of this is Keenan's Very Evil mother, the power-hungry Winter Queen, who will stop at nothing to ensure that Keenan fails to find a Summer Queen, & who wants the world to be trapped in an Endless Winter Mwahahahaha.

So. The plot works well despite not being the most gripping, as do the various moments of menace & tension throughout the book, the wonderfully realistic & really quite creepy descriptions of the faeries, & a couple of spark-bright characters.

Aislinn's a pretty cool heroine. She's smart & capable & doesn't make any silly mistakes (unlike a certain famous heroine *cough*Bella*cough*). She also has an Awesome Feminist Grandma. Keenan is presented as charismatic but comes off as selfish, manipulative & stalkery (not unlike another supernatural love interest I could name). Donia is multi-layered & conflicted, & not presented as the angsty jealous lover she could easily have been. The relationship between her & Aislinn is one of the most interesting relationships in the book, & while I feel like it could have used more screen time (so to speak) it works really well & definitely adds something to the otherwise pretty straight-forward romance. However, Seth is a little too perfect to be a teenage boy, & the Winter Queen is like something out of a pantomime.

It's not that I necessarily need my faerie queens to be terribly believable, but one-dimensional villains that are a bit camp & more like Disney baddies than actual antagonists aren't as scary as the kind of unsettling villains you can almost understand. As for Seth, well, he's the boy all teenage girls who hate Edward Cullen dream of having. He & Aislinn start off as friends & he waits patiently for her to notice their growing attraction. Before they sleep together, he gets a full STI test & presents her with the papers. He makes the first move but respectfully (& very obviously) waits for her to retaliate & asks her if she's okay with what they're doing every step of the way. He won't have sex with her for the first time when she's feeling fragile & later even lectures her on the importance of consent. Oh & he goes down on her & is totally really great at it. And I am all for anti-Edward-Cullen characters, I really am. I am all for safe sex & the importance of consent & cunnilingus & other alliterative acts but Seth is not like any teenage boy I ever knew (no offence to the teenage boys I used to know). And that sort of takes away a bit from the believability of his character. Having said that, it's refreshing to see a kind, respectful young man as love interest in a supernatural young adult book, because those kinds of characters are few & far between.

I worried for about half the book that this was going to pull a Twilight with Team Keenan winning out over Team Seth in the end as the Summer King got progressively more sympathetic but it almost feels like Wicked Lovely was written in direct retaliation to texts like Twilight & although you sort of got where Keenan was coming from at the end, he's still a manipulative spoiled brat & Aislinn is smart enough to realise this.

All in all, Wicked Lovely was a lot better than I was expecting. It turns the tired tropes of Twilight & many of its offshoots on their heads, the action is pretty fast paced while still allowing for a certain amount of character development (if only for a select few) & both Aislinn's world & the invisible faerie world that exists alongside it are vibrant & believable. I won't be tripping over my feet to buy the sequel, but I'll definitely read it at some point, & with great pleasure.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Important Life Lessons & a Whole Bunch of Ghosts: The Vampire Diaries 3:6 Recap

Previously on The Vampire Diaries, I was crap & didn't do a recap for TWO WHOLE WEEKS which means that I haven't watched The Vampire Diaries in THREE WHOLE WEEKS (maths is not my strong point) which means I am having SERIOUS WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS (not really) & this must be REMEDIED IMMEDIATELY in BLOCK CAPITALS!

What has been happening in Mystic Falls in the last two weeks? I don't know! Because I haven't watched The Vampire Diaries in the last FOUR AND A HALF WEEKS! All manner of dramatic music, flashbacks, and tragic montages could have happened without my knowledge! HOW COULD I LET THIS HAPPEN? It will NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN! (This is a blatant lie.)

So let's pull up a chair & a nice cup of tea, leave our block capitals at the door (this is also a blatant lie) & get stuck in to THREE WHOLE EPISODES of The Vampire Diaries!!!

(If anything merits multiple exclamation marks, that does. Originally I was going to do this as one long post but I think instead I'll just post all three episodes over the one week. Which is sort of like the same thing, if you don't look too closely.)

Previously, on The Vampire Diaries: Elena & Katherine are dopplegangers! Elena is the Good Doppleganger (straight hair) & Katherine is the Evil Doppleganger (wavy hair). Katherine is also a vampire! So are Stefan & Damon! They are also brothers! They are also both in love with Elena like they were once in love with Katherine a hundred years ago which isn't weird at all! In the last two seasons, Damon was the Bad Boy Brother & Stefan was the Good Boy Brother but then this season the Good Brother became the Evil Brother & our whole world got turned upside down!

Elena has some friends! Caroline is a Bossy Blond Vampire! She has School Spirit, a sheriff mother & an evil father who hates vampires! She is dating Tyler, who used to be a jock but then became a werewolf but then got turned into a werepire by Evil English Klaus! Bonnie is a Good Witch! She is dating Elena's brother Jeremy! Jeremy can see ghosts! Specifically, the ghosts of his staked-vampire-turned-ghost ex-girlfriends! One of those staked-vampire-turned-ghost ex-girlfriends is Vicky, who was Matt's drugged-up party-girl sister before she became a vampire & then got staked & then came back as a ghost! Matt is also Elena's friend, & her ex-boyfriend, & Caroline's ex-boyfriend, because teenagers' friendsgroups are always incestuous! He's having a Very Hard Time being the only human in a bunch of supernatural high schoolers! He even tried to kill himself so he could communicate with his staked-vampire-turned-ghost sister! And it worked! Because Bonnie brought him back to life because nobody ever stays dead in this show!

Evil English Klaus also has a sister! Her name is Rebecca & she used to be in love with Stefan! She & Klaus are Original Vampires, & the only thing that can kill them is Michael the Vampire-Hunting Vampire! Katherine & Jeremy just woke him up at the end of the last episode! Also there is a Magical Witchy Necklace but that doesn't come up on this previously on! Now on to the episode! Are you excited yet?

Currently on The Vampire Diaries, Alaric is giving Elena Buffy lessons early in the morning so she can stake Stefan when the time comes! He gives a very rousing peptalk & tells Elena that she is the Strongest Person He Knows. Elena gives us her best Strong Person look.

This episode's emo rock song is Super Upbeat because it's Senior Year! But then the music gets all serious because it's Stefan & Elena's anniversary. Elena is Very Sad but Bonnie & Caroline convince her to make this the Best Year Ever! That definitely won't come back to haunt them!

The music gets even more rocky at the Salvatore house because Stefan's being a Bad Boy. He's got half-naked girls playing bloody Twister on his floor, which is mid-way between silly & creepy. But who's this barging in unannounced? It's Rebecca! Klaus has abandoned her in Mystic Falls & she demands to move in with the brothers! This can only end well!

Back at school, Bonnie is uncomfortable with Jeremy because he's still in contact with his staked-vampire-turned-ghost ex-girlfriends. Don't worry, Bonnie, I'd be jealous too. Matt is being Very Sad in his car but then Vicky shows up! They reminisce about last year for a bit & Vicky picks up on his oh-so-subtle Very Sadness. She tells him there's a way she could come back from the dead! For good this time! Because of course there is! But then Tyler interrupts & we don't know what she means! (Tyler is Super Perky because he's a brand new werepire now.)

Back at the crypt, Katherine is trying to wake up Michael the Vampire Hunting Vampire. (Hey wait, didn't he totally wake up last episode?) Her iPhone rings & I jump & check my phone.

Life Lesson #1: Vampires all have iPhones. It's about time I got used to this.

Damon is our mystery caller of the day. He wants Katherine to hurry up & wake the Vampire Hunter. He then calls Elena & tells her Rebecca's staying with them but doesn't mention that Stefan's being Particularly Evil with the Twister girls, & when Elena asks how her homicidal vampire ex-boyfriend is Damon oh-so-subtly changes the subject.

Back at school, Caroline wants to go to a bonfire! That's never a good idea when you're in a show with vampires & werewolves! Speaking of which, here comes Tyler! He's still Super Perky but what's this? He has blood on his shirt! He insists he just spilled his blood baggie that Rebecca gave him but we're not so sure. Caroline's jealous of Rebecca & doesn't like that Tyler thinks being a werepire is awesome.

Elena leaves them to their lovers' tiff & - speaking of which - bumps into Stefan! Stefan's going back to school!

Life Lesson #2: No matter how evil they are, vampires always go back to high school.

And Stefan's looking particularly evil today. I mean, look at that Bad Boy face:

Stefan is clearly too cool to be too cool for school.

Even though he still keeps doing it, Stefan's not happy to be a high school senior for the 100th time. Alaric sees him getting too close to Elena & tells him to let her go so Stefan gets all Evil High schooler at Alaric & threatens him by the lockers! And then he kicks a kid out of his seat in the classroom! He is so bad ass! Alaric starts to teach the only class he ever seems to teach, Founding Fathers History, but he hasn't checked all his facts, as a Mysterious New Girl points out. Mysterious New Girl is none other than Rebecca!

Life Lesson: Seriously, all vampires go back to high school. Even centuries-old Original Vampires who fell asleep in the 20s & woke up this century about two weeks ago.

Uh-oh, Caroline is Super Jealous to see Rebecca!

At lunchtime, Matt goes looking for his incorporeal sister. Ghost Vicky apparently likes to haunt the Stoner Corner on campus. (You can tell it's the Stoner Corner because of the hippy truck parked there & the random skateboarding extras.)

Life Lesson #3: Once a stoner, always a stoner.

Matt wants to know how Vicky can come back & she says has help from the Other Side. Suddenly, Jeremy bursts in on them & interrupts the conversation. Then he goes to find Anna in the men's room -

Life Lesson #4: Toilet genders don't matter when you're a ghost.

- & tells her what he saw. Vicky explains to Matt that there's a witch on the Other Side who can do a spell to give her a Stronger Foothold on This Side. Anna kindly clarifies to us confused viewers that a ghost can only appear on This Side through the person they're bound to - for Anna it's Jeremy, for Vicky it's Matt - but that with this kind of spell, Vicky can come & go as she pleases. Matt's not happy because that means Vicky'll still be a ghost but she quite rightly says that being a ghost hardly matters in a town full of vampires, werewolves & witches. Matt's not quite buying it, & it's a good thing, because Anna says Vicky's gone evil & wants to Upset the Balance of Nature! Oh no, Matt's bought! He asks what he has to do.

The music gets peppy again! Know why? Cause it's high school football time!

Life Lesson #5: Vampires play American Football. Don't ask.

Life Lesson #6: Vampires also cheerlead!

Rebecca has joined the cheerleading squad after replacing the girl she's presumably just eaten! And she's doing it to steal Caroline's boyfriend! I love it!

Life Lesson #7: Even thousand-year-old vampires are just teenagers at heart. Petty, vaguely evil, cheerleading teenagers. Isn't that nice to know?

Across the pitch, Tyler's being a Jerky Jock again, only this time he's being a Werepire Jerky Jock, with compulsion! He compels the coach to let them quit training early to go drink at the bonfire! Caroline doesn't like how Tyler's been acting! You tell him, Caroline! But just then, Rebecca the Ancient Original Vampire Cheerleader does a double somersault & lands in the splits! Pfft, I can totally do that. Tyler grins jerkishly & says Rebecca's got moves. Caroline makes a Very Very Angry face.

Meanwhile, on the running track, Stefan joins Elena's laps & asks her if she's going to the bonfire & who she'll be bringing to homecoming now that they're mortal enemies instead of boyfriend & girlfriend. He says he's just hanging around, enduring the torture that is high school to protect Klaus's Human Bloodbag, Ouch. That's got to hurt.

Meanwhile, in the crypt, Katherine's feeding Michael the Vampire Hunting Vampire from a random human but Michael the Vampire Hunting Vampire is TOO GOOD FOR HUMAN BLOOD.

In a random workout room, Elena is working out. She calls Damon so he can see her very prettily breaking a nice light sweat (if I lifted those weights I'd be purple-faced and/or fainting, which really wouldn't look very sexy at all) & tells him she wants to lock Stefan up. Damon replies by helping her with her Buffy lessons, but unlike Alaric's classes, this is a Sexy Buffy Lesson!

He's showing her the way to get to a vampire's heart, like she's gotten to his heart (all together now, awww), & tells her he'll do anything he asks.

Upbeat emo rock music is upbeat! It's bonfire time! We already know this won't end well! In a classroom, Team Buffy is planning a Stefan attack. Caroline's going to prep her daddy's dungeon, Elena'll lure Stefan away from the bonfire & Alaric's in charge of the shooting. Damon's going to distract Rebecca with his Charms. Then Tyler comes in & when Elena asks him to steal a supply of vervain from his mom's stores he refuses because Klaus wouldn't like it! Because Tyler is Loyal to Klaus because he is Klaus's Special Werepire & he Owes Everything to Klaus! Then he goes to leave but Damon vervains him in the back! Turns out Tyler's been Sired, which basically means he's like the Renford to Klaus's Dracula, only without the asylum & the rats. So far.

Meanwhile, in Matt's attic, Matt is casting a spell. Dramatic music plays as he cuts his hand & bleeds on a picture of him & Vicky & the candles flicker & the picture starts smoking & the attic door slams & then Vicky's corporeal again! But then she says she's made a deal with the dead witch to Restore the Balance of Nature once she's back, & that means not letting Klaus's werepires survive, & that means killing Elena! Oh no! She cracks Matt on the back of the head with a wrench & leaves the attic!

Life Lesson #8: Try not to leave wrenches lying around in your spell-casting attics.

Back at school, Bonnie's angry that Jeremy's still talking to Anna, which he's now doing right in front of her. She can't deal with her boyfriend's staked-vampire-turned-ghost ex-girlfriends as well as Matt's attempted resurrection of his sister, so she decides to prioritise.

At the bonfire, Rebecca is pouting cause Tyler's not there & she's actually a twelve-year-old in an ancient vampire's sultry blond body, & Elena is getting drunk & pretending to have fun. Stefan's mostly leering. Damon comes up to Rebecca & teaches her how to eat toasted marshmallows sexily.

Life lesson #9: Contrary to all sticky-faced evidence to the contrary, it is apparently possible to be sexy whilst eating marshmallows, but probably only if you're a vampire.

Elena is a little bit jealous, which Stefan totally picks up on. And leers about. Elena leaves, &, as planned, Stefan follows.

Matt calls Bonnie frantically & tells her what he's done. Meanwhile, Damon's teaching Rebecca how to make s'mores & she repays him with a stake through the belly. Now that's not very nice, Rebecca!

Tyler wakes up at his place with Caroline watching him. Caroline explains angrily that now that Tyler's Sired, he'll think Klaus's needs come first (& every time anyone says Klaus is Tyler's Master I think of that Buffy episode where Xander is compeled into calling Dracula his master & hates it so much that he adds a "bater" to the end of every "master" he says). Caroline tells him he's acting like the Old, Pre-Werewolf Tyler we all know & dislike. Turns out Tyler dislikes the Old, Pre-Werewolf Tyler too! He tells Caroline he'll be careful & asks her not to hate him because everything he likes about himself is her. All together now, awww.

Back at the bonfire, Elena is out on the bleachers, drunk. Or pretending to be drunk! I've totally caught on! Stefan is now being the Responsible Adult Friend & wants to drive her home but Elena climbs over the side of the bleachers & almost trips & tells Stefan Klaus wouldn't be happy with him right now, which is the vampire equivalent of "I'm telling Mommy on you." (Who'd have thought there'd be a vampire equivalent to that? You've taught me so much, Vampire Diaries!) Then Elena accidentally-on-purpose lets go & falls off! But Stefan super-vampire-speeds over & saves her before she hits the ground! They gaze longingly into each other's eyes! Stefan really does care!

This makes him Very Confused.

And then Alaric shoots him in the back with vervaine! Go Alaric! He & Elena stuff him in the back of their truck but then Vicky, who's been sitting smoking beside a fence, lights a trail of gasoline all the way to the truck that bursts into flames! The doors won't open! Elena is stuck inside! Alaric tries to break the window but it won't smash! The flames fly higher! They throw Alaric back! Elena is doomed!!!

Back in the classroom, Matt goes through what he did to bring Vicky back with Bonnie. She finds a spell in her Big Book o'Spells that'll stop any magic helping Vicky.

Life Lesson #10: A Big Book o'Spells will give you the exact spell you need, except when it's narratively inconvenient to do so.

In the burning car, Stefan is stirring! In the classroom, Bonnie is chanting! All over the scene, dramatic music is playing! Vicky appears in the classroom & Bonnie - while still chanting, because

Life Lesson: Witches can hella multitask.

- explains that the only way for Vicky to go back to the Other Side is if Matt lets her go. The music drops from Super Dramatic to Really, Really Sad. Vicky doesn't want to be alone! Neither does Matt! But he has to let her go! He says goodbye, Vicky disappears, & Bonnie stops chanting. Matt, rather needlessly, says: "She's Gone."

Life Lesson #11: Whenever there is a Poignant Moment, someone will always be there to state the obvious.

Back at the parking lot, Alaric's got the back of the truck open! He & Elena pull Stefan out JUST IN TIME before he truck goes like this:

Life Lesson #12: Explosions. They are epic.

And now it's time for everyone's favourite Deep & Meaningful emo pop-song closing scene! This episode, the song is about saying all you can say & Damon patches Elena up & they talk about how Elena was faking the drunkenness & Damon was faking the marshmallow flirting. Cut to Tyler's house, where post-vampire/werepire sex redressing is happening & Caroline won't stay over because Tyler hasn't earned it yet & the song is about pulling through & taking your time. They kiss & Caroline leaves & Rebecca appears with a compelled girl for Tyler to feed on & the song is about being foolish & waiting for you. Tyler tries to tell Rebecca to leave but she tells him Klaus would want him to feed. Tyler attacks the girl, werepire-teeth bared, & the music stops short which means it's now time for tonight's post-emo-pop-song-dramatic-montage cliffhanger scene!

In the crypt, Michael the Vampire-Hunting Vampire is still in chains & is telling Katherine that he's abstained from human blood for as long as he can remember. Katherine begins to believe he doesn't know how to kill Klaus after all. Michael the Vampire-Hunting Vampire tells her that he can, & will, kill Klaus, but that he'll have a hard time doing so in chains. So Katherine frees him! BAD PLAN, PRINCESS! Katherine thinks a little blood'll warm up Michael the Vampire-Hunting Vampire's muscles real quick, but he tells her he doesn't eat Living Things. Uh oh, I see where this is going! Katherine doesn't though, so she's taken completely unawares when Michael the Vampire-Hunting Vampire LEAPS UP & BITES HER NECK!

Dun dun - oh wait, there's another scene! Since when is there another scene after the post-emo-pop-song-dramatic-montage cliffhanger scene? Careful now, Vampire Diaries, you know I don't like it when you try mix things up.

Elena & Alaric are at the Salvator brothers' house & for some reason Stefan's out & about & not, you know, trapped in Caroline's daddy's dungeon like he was supposed to be. Best laid plans, & whatnot. Stefan tells them that Elena needs him & they're all better off with him looking out for her. Then he asks Elena why she didn't let him die in the exploding truck. She tells him she still Has Hope, even after everything he's done, because she knows Who He Really Is, & she's Not Giving Up. Stefan tells her that's pathetic & she stakes him in the side. There's a good little Buffy-wannabe!

Back at his house, Jeremy is trying to get through to Bonnie but she doesn't want to talk. Anna appears & wants to know why Jeremy's thinking of her when he's calling his girlfriend. It's because they're Totally In Love! Even death cannot separate them! They hold up their hands to do that cliché ghost-story touch but this time they can feel each other! It's like magic exists in this world or something!

Now we get to the actual end-of-episode cliffhanger scene (you can tell because of the eerie music) in which Damon's tidying the house, presumably after another one of Stefan's Wild Twister Parties, when suddenly, objects start flying around the room! He thinks it's Stefan but I suspect a ghost. Damon gets thrown dramatically in the air! It is totally a ghost! It's Tyler's dead-werewolf-turned-ghost uncle! Because...



Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Not-a-Post Post, with Two Links

This isn't a proper post, it's an apology for the lack of proper posts & it's a promise of a Super-Duper The Vampire Diaries Recap Double-Bill within the next few days. For a given value of "few."

In the meantime, here's a link to an excellent Vampire Diaries drinking game (that'll have you completely smashed by the end of each episode) by my new favourite website in all the world, Forever Young Adult (which is for YA readers who are a little less Y & a little more A).

And here's a very cute Vampire Identification poster by artist Ben Douglass (click on the link for a bigger version):

Monday, October 17, 2011

Important Life Lessons & DRAMATIC MUSIC: The Vampire Diaries 3:5 Recap

This week's Vampire Diaries recap is late because I'm just back from Mayo where there is no internet. (True story: there is no internet in the whole of Mayo.) But without further ado...

Previously, on The Vampire Diaries:

Elena & Katherine are identical! But they're not related! They're doppelgängers, & Evil English Klaus, who is evil, & English, has to kill a doppelgänger to break an ancient curse! He thinks he's killed Elena but she's still alive! So he doesn't know what's gone wrong! The only way he can get what he wants is by contacting the Original Witch! But, as the name suggests, she's been dead for centuries! And the only way he can get in contact with the Original Witch is by a Magical Witchy Necklace that used to be hers! Where could this necklace be? Elena, who is the Good Doppelgänger, has it! And Klaus doesn't know it! But wait! Katherine, who is the Evil Doppelgänger, has stolen the necklace! And now she wants to take Damon on a road trip!

Damon & Stefan are vampire brothers! They are both in love with Elena! And Katherine is in love with both of them! But mostly she just loves herself! Stefan used to be the Good Brother & Damon was the Bad Brother, but now Stefan has joined Evil English Klaus & has become a Ripping Killing Off-the-Rails Machine! He even told Elena he doesn't love her any more! But he's just pretending that he doesn't care to keep her safe! And he's the one who gave her the necklace! But now Katherine has it!

Klaus has a sister! Her name is Rebecca! She's an Original Vampire too! Stefan used to be friends with them back in the 20s & he discovered that they were on the run from someone! That someone is a vampire hunter called Michael! Here's what he looks like:

Flashbacks are helpful Bad Guy identifiers. Stefan made the mistake of asking Rebecca about Michael & now the Evil Siblings know he's not on their side! And Klaus wants to know what it is he's been hiding! So he brings him back to Mystic Falls! Which is where Elena lives! This is Very Bad News!

Currently, on The Vampire Diaries, it's time for a cliché! It's a horror movie cliché! It's an empty high school! It's my favourite horror movie cliché! I can tell this is going to be an awesome episode.

The halls are empty! The classrooms are empty! There's a weird clanking sound echoing through the school! It turns out to be Matt, the Sensitive Blond Jock! He's working out after class, because there totally wouldn't be an insurance issue with letting a student use those heavy exercise machines in a completely empty building. Suddenly, he hears a noise! Eerie music begins to play. He steps out of the gym into the empty corridor. Something ghostlike brushes past him! And because this is a horror movie cliché, instead of running screaming from the school as fast as his Sensitive Jock Legs can carry him, he goes towards the ghostly sound! The music intensifies! He follows the screechy-violin music into a dark classroom, where he turns on the light &...

Sets off a floor-full of mousetraps set by his friends because they're preparing for Senior Prank Night! Oh shucks you guys! Matt is not impressed. He'd forgotten all about Senior Prank Night, but gets roped into it anyway, by Caroline, the Bossy Blond Vampire. Also, I suspect they need him to fill the Token Human spot on the team.

(Left to right: Caroline the Bimbo Turned Bossy Blond Vampire, Tyler the Jock-Jerk Turned Nice-Guy Werewolf, Elena the Good Doppelganger, & Bonnie the Good Witch.)

Our gang of lovable misfits are now in Senior Year! They've been Through A Lot! But they've made it! So now it's time for them to make memories that'll last them the rest of their lives, by supergluing teachers' desks shut. Suddenly the school is well-lit & full of students having a lark & some high jinx. Elena is Very Happy.

Until she walks into one of the school's only remaining badly-lit corridors, & you know by the fact that the camera's close to her face & the Lark-&-Some-High-Jinx music has stopped that something bad's about to happen.

That something bad is Klaus! Oh no!

Today's opening scene music is too cool for school! It's Super-Cool Road Trip Music! Know why? Cause Damon & Katherine, the king & queen of Too Cool For School, are on a road trip! Damon is board & Katherine is flirty. I think that's all I really need to say about any scene that contains the two of them. The rest is just banter.

In Mystic Falls, Stefan wakes refreshed from a night of being tortured by Klaus. Rebecca, who is guarding him, knows that he knows that Klaus knows that... hold on, I've lost track. Anyway, Rebecca says Klaus is ripping Elena the Cow's Bloody Head off! Stefan plays it totally nonchalant & badass until...

He slams Rebecca to the ground! (Maybe the dramatic music made him do it.) But Rebecca is jealous! And way, way stronger than Stefan. Vampire fights make the most sickening bone-crunchy noises. It's awesome. Also, Stefan ends up impaled on a metal pole.

Life Lesson #1: Never make a vampire woman jealous.

Back at the high school, Klaus is dragging Elena angrily through the corridors, talking at her about his plan & why it didn't work & what he's going to do now (make sure she can still break the curse & then kill her, but first make her suffer a lot) in typical Bad Guy fashion.

Life Lesson #2: Bad Guys really do like to talk.

It's pop-rock music time! This really is a high school episode! It's like something out of Ten Things I Hate About You, which may well be the greatest teen movie ever. In the gym, those whacky seniors are constructing some sort of elaborate prank involving hundreds of paper cups. But what's this? Klaus storms into the hall, puts on an American accent & tells the kids to leave! All except two poor souls who get singled out to be compelled.

So, Klaus does the creepy compulsion thing really well. Today, he compels a girl to stand on one leg, & tells her guy friend that if she touches that leg to the ground he is to beat her to death. It's always the compulsion scenes I find genuinely creepy. That probably says something about my problems with authority.

Far far away, we rejoin the roadtrip, which has paused momentarily since Damon's stopped the car & thrown away the keys. He demands to know what Katherine's up to! He would never have left town with her so willingly otherwise! Katherine tells him she's stolen Elena's necklace because Klaus wants it & she wants to stay two steps ahead of her enemy, but she doesn't say why Klaus wants it. Also, she's kidnapped Jeremy & stuffed him in the trunk. Because nothing inspires a vampire's trust more than the unconscious teenage brother of the woman he loves.

Back in Mystic Falls, we're back in the high school! I've missed Mystic Falls High! Also, I'm glad term's starting again because the second chapter of my thesis, which I'm starting research on next week, is all about high school! So recapping The Vampire Diaries is totally study!

Anyway, in the school, which is suddenly ill-lit & empty again, Caroline & Tyler are having a Moment. Caroline wants everybody to be happy, & she wants this school year to be the best one ever.

Life Lesson #3: If you live in a town in which supernatural shit goes down about every other day, don't say you want this to be the best year ever, even if you're thinking it. You're totally going to jinx it.

Oh look, here comes a jinx! It's Rebecca, & she knows who they are! But who is she, Caroline wants to know. Why, she's the New Girl, & she's got fangs!

In the pool room -

Life Lesson #4: All American high schools have olympic-sized pools in their gyms.

- Bonnie & Matt are TPing the room & talking about Jeremy's sightings of Vicky, Matt's dead sister who is also Jeremy's Drugged-Up-Party-Girl Come Staked-Vampire-Turned-Ghost ex-girlfriend. It's a complicated situation. Bonnie & Matt look back on the year that's past, & muse on the fact that last summer they had no problems except breakups & failing CPR & now Matt's feeling really left out because his ex is dating a vampire, his friend's a witch & his sister's a ghost & he's just a lowly human. Don't worry Matt, it worked out okay for Xander! (Plus or minus an eye.)

He goes off to get more toilet paper & there's no music, so you know something bad's right around the next toilet stall...

I don't think we need a cliché count for this one - this whole episode is based on the high-school-inna-scary-movie trope.

Matt's about to leave with his toilet paper when one of the bathroom stall doors open! But he was just inside, & there was nobody there! The Eerie Violins are back. (That'd be a great name for a band.) He goes to check, & sees graffiti eulogising his dead sister. Then he closes the stall door again & his sister's right behind him!

But he can't hear her! But he might have felt her! It must be so frustrating to be a ghost.

In the gym, Girl Standing on One Leg is clearly no ballerina. She's about to drop her leg when Bonnie & Matt come into the gym. Elena shouts at them to leave but they're exactly who Klaus has been waiting for! (Well, Bonnie is, no one cares about Matt cause he's just a lowly human.) And then Rebecca drags Tyler in too, & Klaus grabs him & explains his Evil Plan.

He forces Tyler to drink some of his blood & tells the assembled (& rather shocked) audience that every time he's tried to turn a werewolf into a werepire hybrid the werewolf dies. So he tells Bonnie she'd better find a way to reverse that, or else it's bye bye Tyler. *Snap* goes Tyler's neck.


On the other side of town, Stefan wakes up - with difficulty - & removes the large metal bar that's sticking through his chest.

Life Lesson #5: Seriously. Never made a lady vampire jealous.

At the gym, Rebecca's being jealous at Elena & Klaus has commanded Bonnie to go fetch her Big Book o'Spells to make sure Tyler comes back to life without bleeding from the eyeballs. Bonnie is worried because the Original Witch spell is over a thousand years old & her Big Book o'Spells doesn't go back that far. She used to be able to contact the Ghosts of Witches Past but they conveniently cut her off after she brought Jeremy back from the dead. I don't understand their problem, I mean it's not like anyone ever stays dead in this show. But Bonnie's figured something out! She may not be able to contact the dead, but you know who can? Jeremy can!

You know who else has figured this out? That's right, it's our favourite scheming doppelgänger, Katherine! Katherine's old friend Pearl from season two once said that she knew of a vampire who could kill Klaus, but she neglected to share the rest of the information with anyone but her teenage daughter, & now she's dead. And so is her teenage daughter. Who is this teenage daughter, I hear those of you who didn't watch season two ask? Why, it's none other than Jeremy's other Staked-Vampire-Turned-Ghost Ex-Girlfriend, Anna! It's all coming together so nicely!

Back at the high school, Stefan seems to have had a change of heart. He comes into the gym to ask Klaus's forgiveness & pledge himself to him. Klaus, unsurprisingly, tells Stefan to kill the human couple, & elbows Elena in the face when she protests.

Life Lesson #6: Never say "he isn't going to hurt me" around an Evil English Werepire. He'll take it as a challenge.

Stefan completely forgets his pledge & turns on Klaus! He tells him he'll do anything once Klaus doesn't hurt Elena! But Klaus doesn’t believe him! Do we honestly blame him? So he compels Stefan to obey him forever!

The music gets so dramatic I can hardly stand it & Evil Compelled Stefan -

- kills those poor defenceless humans! Which is totally different & more dramatic than all the times he killed poor defenceless humans for Klaus without the excuse of having been compelled to do it.

Meanwhile, on a picnic bench somewhere in Road Trip County, Jeremy is talking to Anna but she refuses to help Katherine. So Damon punches Jeremy, which makes Anna a lot more willing to talk. She says that they're looking for Michael the Vampire-Hunting Vampire, but that it'd be a Very Bad Idea to wake him because he'd kill them all. Damon gets his keys.

Back in Mystic Falls, Rebecca's learning how to use mobile telephones. Apparently holding the phone at arms length & making duck-lips is just instinctive, even to a 1920s girl.

She's definitely got the tapping-to-zoom thing down though, because after going through Caroline's photos & pouting at the ones of Stefan & Elena, she notices that Elena's necklace looks somehow familiar...

Rebecca storms into the gym & demands to know where her necklace is! Stefan looks up from his meal -

Life Lesson #7: Even when compelled, vampires are messy eaters.

- Rebecca shows Klaus Caroline's phone -

Life Lesson #8: Evil English Werepires are also very good with smartphones.

- & she runs at Elena.

Life Lesson #9: 1920s vampire women are very possessive & will rip your throat out if they think you're lying about not having their necklace any more.

Life Lesson #10: When Original Vampires want to know something, they'll play Good Cop Bad Cop.

Klaus kindly asks a bleeding Elena where the necklace is, & when Elena explains that Katherine stole it Klaus decides to make things more fun by giving Bonnie twenty minutes to find the spell. If she fails, he says, Stefan must kill Elena.


Meanwhile, Bonnie still can't get through to Jeremy & something's been throwing Matt's clothes around the workout room! Matt follows a trail of clothes (how many clothes does this boy have?) to the pool room where he finds his car keys at the bottom of the pool. Then Vicky appears behind him! But he can't hear her! So she kicks one of his shoes into the pool! That sure gets his attention. Then, she spots his phone lying on the ground.

Life Lesson #11: Smartphones are the new ouiji boards.

Matt's got a great idea! He knows Jeremy can see ghosts because Bonnie brought him back from the dead, so Matt decides that if Bonnie brings him back from the dead, he'll see ghosts too! She doesn't even need to do magic, cause she never failed CPR! Isn't that handy? I can't see any possible problem with this plan!

Bonnie rushes through the halls! The music is super dramatic! She plunges into the pool & brings now-dead Matt back to the surface!

Back in Road Trip County, Damon gets his phone back from Katherine & sees a bunch of messages from Bonnie. He leaves Jeremy with Katherine to get Anna to tell them more about Michael the Vampire-Hunting Vampire, & he returns to Mystic Falls to save the day.

At the high school, the CPR isn't working! Matt wakes up in a glowy blue version of the pool room, where Vicky tells him to give Bonnie a message before sending him back to life.

Life Lesson #12: This is the Ultimate Life Lesson I've learned from The Vampire Diaries. Everybody dies horrible violent deaths, usually as teenagers. But, Life Lesson #12a: Nobody, & I mean nobody, ever stays dead.

In the gym, Elena's trying to get Stefan to fight the compulsion & just drink from her without killing her when the timer goes off but Stefan shouts that now he is A RIPPER! And A RIPPER DOESN'T STOP!

A RIPPER is also a tortured soul, which is something that this scene really reminds us about, because this scene is all about how much A RIPPER loves Elena & how she's the only reason he can't turn it all off & how now that he's A RIPPER he's gone all Edward Cullen on us & hears only the sweet sweet beat of her heart every time she speaks & wants her blood (or should I say "blood") more than anything & if he tastes even one drop of that sweet bloody nectar she's dead.


In the science lab, Tyler's woken up. Rebecca kindly explains the impending death situation to him. Oh hey, she's found the countdown function on the iPhone! It took me like a week to figure my one out, & I grew up in this century.

And yes, I know it's not an iPhone, but it's pretty much the same thing.

Back at the pool hall, Matt delivers Vicky's message to Bonnie, which is from the Original Witch herself. As we all suspected, except, apparently, for the characters of this show, Elena is the key. It's because she survived that the curse wasn't broken, & it'll only be broken if she dies. Matt says that Tyler's going to die, isn't he, but Klaus, who's overheard the entire exchange, would like to beg to differ.

Life Lesson #13: When it comes to sensitive information that could get your friends killed, it's best to whisper.

In the gym, the countdown's almost up! Sixteen seconds to go! Stefan implores Elena to run for it but Elena says Stefan must fight! She declares her love for him! He makes this face:

She tells him not to give up! But he can't hold it! He clings to the bleachers! He rushes at her! He tells her to run! RUN!


Elena races down the corridors! Stefan follows! He slams into lockers to slow himself down! Elena runs! Stefan slams! Elena runs! Stefan slams! Elena runs! Stefan slams! (This goes on for a while.) Elena runs! And slams into Klaus!!! There aren't enough exclamation marks for this scene!!!

And they even throw in a cliché! God I love this show! Klaus says "we've got to stop meeting like this" & we cut to Stefan, who's made it to the cafeteria - but wait, what's he doing? He's breaking a sweeping brush in half! Could it be? Is our broody tortured soul going to stake himself? He raises the brush-stake & stabs it through his stomach as Klaus & Elena crash into the room! Klaus applauds Stefan's love for Elena, but he removes the stake & tries to convince Stefan to turn off his humanity. Stefan shoves Klaus & says "NO!!!!!!!!" (There were exactly that many exclamation marks. I counted.)

Klaus throws Stefan to the other side of the room & Super Compels him as the DRAMATIC MUSIC swells & swells. Stefan's eyes roll back in his head! His expression becomes even more vacant than usual. Klaus has won. He decides to test his victory by asking A RIPPER (somewhere, Rupert Giles is crying) if he would like a nice drink from the doppelgänger neck.

I guess that's a yes.


In the science lab, Tyler's dying. Klaus comes in with a test tube of Elena's blood because he doesn't think that the Original Witch told the truth. So instead of killing Elena, he wants Tyler to drink a bit of her blood. Well, that's much better for all involved, now isn't it?

The music gets all dramatic (again)! Tyler starts to thrash around on the floor! Caroline screams! Tyler writhes! He cries out! And then, he turns into this:

Tyler is now a bona fide werepire! Hooray for Klaus!

Later on, Elena wakes up in a hospital bed. She wants to leave but the nurse won't let her because she's lost a lot of blood. But it turns out the nurse is taking her blood for Klaus! Out in the car park, Klaus explains to Rebecca that the Original Witch was a very clever lady who hated Klaus very much so she made it so that he had to kill the doppelgänger to become a werepire, but in killing her would lose the ability to make more werepires, therefore dooming him to an eternity of loneliness. Because he couldn't, you know, make friends with other vampires or werewolves.

So that's what Klaus's whole werepire obsession is about, Rebecca figures out. Poor little Klaus is just afraid of being alone. If I didn't want to be alone, I wouldn't compel my best bro friend to forget all about me & lock my sister in a coffin for ninety years. But maybe that's just me.

Klaus sends Rebecca off to get the truck so they & Elena can get the hell out of this one horse town, when Damon shows up! Yay Damon! Only he can save the day! Look at this face, this is a face that means business:

Klaus goes to kill Damon but Damon tells him Michael the Vampire-Hunting Vampire knows where he is! And he's coming to get him! So Klaus drops Damon & disappears! He didn't even call his bluff!

Damon finds Elena asleep on the hospital bed & judging by the soundtrack I think it may be time for another Deep & Meaningful emo pop song closing scene! Yay!

This week, the song is about there being too many fights in the world tonight & Elena whispers Damon's name & he carries her out of the hospital. Cut to the high school, where Caroline wants to know if Tyler's all right but he says he feels amazing & twirls her in the air & says this is gonna be the best year ever. Caroline smiles but she's secretly worried & the song is about looking to you & someone stealing someone else's heart. Cut to the workout room, where Matt is troubled & Bonnie tells him to try live his life like a normal person but he knows he can't any more & the music's all electric-guitar instrumental because Matt's too upset for lyrics. Bonnie leaves & Matt hears someone beside him & he looks up & it's Vicky & the song's all about someone staying with someone else. Cut to Damon's house, where the music gently fades & he offers a shell-shocked Elena some bourbon & hands her her necklace, which he stole back from Katherine. Elena is More Than Sad because Stefan's really gone this time & Damon wasn't there to help. He says he shouldn't have left & - one more cliché for the road! - promises he will never leave her again. And he does that weird eye thing.

Their Tender Moment is suddenly cut short, however, when Actually Evil This Time Stefan shows up at the living room door! Is it just me, or has his hair gotten more vertical since the last scene? He pours himself a scotch, cause he's clearly the Bad Boy now (& boy oh boy has he worked on that swagger) & informs Elena that Klaus has asked him to keep an eye on her while he's gone.

Meanwhile, somewhere far away, it's time for this week's post-emo-pop-song-dramatic-montage cliffhanger scene!

Katherine & Jeremy have found Michael the Vampire Hunting Vampire's tomb! They break in & throw open the coffin lid! Houdini lies inside!

The music does daba-daba-DUM-daba-daba-DUM-daba-daba-DUM faster & faster as Katherine & Jeremy look down... And the Hunter's eyes open!