Spellbinder (Night World #3) by L.J. Smith

Thea and Blaise are witches. Blaise has powerful black magic and is uses it to control men and have them do her bidding. Thea is a white witch and usually has to deal with the consequences of Blaise's actions. They are sister-bonded and while Thea does not often agree with Blaise's actions, the bond between the two witches is strong.

Thea and Blaise live with their Grandmother Harman, who also happens to be a very powerful witch. They find themselves having to start over at another school after Blaise's actions got them expelled from their previous school, just one of many they have been expelled from. Thea is praying that Blaise will behave, as their grandmother is threatening to send them to live with their aunt if they get into trouble again.

Trouble begins almost immediately. When Thea saves a boy named Eric from a snake, she finds herself instantly drawn to him. The problem is that he is a human, and humans are not supposed to know about the Night World. When Blaise sets her sights on Eric, Thea is bound and determined to protect him at all costs. He is her soulmate and Thea finds herself breaking the Night World's most strict laws - do not reveal the secret and do not fall in love with a human. In her efforts to save Eric from Blaise's attentions, she works a forbidden spell and accidentally unleashes an evil spirit who goes on a murderous rampage. Thea must now face the ultimate question - is she willing to risk everything to save Eric?

Nothing terribly exciting or different about this book from the previous ones. Just another well written YA Fiction novel. On to book #4: Dark Angel!


Daughters of Darkness (Night World #2) by L.J. Smith

Daughters of Darkness is the second book in the Night World series by L.J. Smith. Mary-Lynnette and Mark Carter live in a small town named Briar Creek in Oregon. Nothing exciting ever happens in Briar Creek. Nothing until three mysterious young girls move into town to live with their aunt. Mary-Lynnette soon realizes that something is not quite right about their new neighbors, and she and her brother soon find themselves caught up in the Night World because Rowan, Krestrel, and Jade are vampires.

Mary-Lynnette cannot walk away now. Mark has fallen for Jade, claiming she is his soulmate, and they have to figure out who murdered the sisters' aunt. The truth is they are all in danger. The strict laws of the Night World have been broken...Mary-Lynnette and Mark, who are humans, know the secret, and Jade has fallen in love with a human. There is not turning back. Mary-Lynnette's world is further turned on its axis when Ash (you will remember him from book #1) shows up with the intention of returning his sisters to the island from which they came. One touch confirms it - Ash and Mary-Lynnette are soulmates. Only Mary-Lynnette is not sure whether or not she is ready to join the Night World, to always live in darkness. After solving the mystery Ash leaves to smooth things over with his father so that his sister can remain in Briar Creek, promising to return for Mary-Lynnette in a years time. The question remains...will Mary-Lynnette be ready?

I enjoyed this book just as much as Secret Vampire, and possibly a little more. Again, this is a total quintessential Young Adult Fiction novel, so if you are not into that, don't pick it up. I have to admit that the hopeless romantic in me is loving the idea of the "soulmate principal" - the idea that each person has a perfect match that understands them and completes them. Having never actually experienced this principal myself, the skeptic in me still finds myself rolling my eyes at the idea that it only takes one touch for the characters to realize they have met their match, while the 13 year old hopeless romantic is sighing...it's an interesting dual experience of emotions. I especially loved it when it happened to Ash, who we met in the Secret Vampire. I liked watching his character struggle with the new feelings he experienced - guilt, compassion, love. They stand in stark contrast to the usual reactions we get from him and plays so nicely into that notion that love, true love, is transformative and can overcome any obstacles. It will be interesting to see how Ash and Mary-Lynnette's love story plays out in future books as they both are still experiencing some hesitation, unlike the love story we saw in book #1 with James and Poppy.

On to book three: Spellbinder!


Secret Vampire (Night World #1) by L.J. Smith

Poppy is sixteen years old and she is going to die. She has just been diagnosed with cancer and the doctors tell her there is no hope. She will die, or at least she believes so until James, her mysterious best friend, appears in her hospital room. James has a secret, a secret that can save Poppy is she is willing. James is a vampire and offers to turn Poppy so that he will not lose her. If James does this he will be breaking three very important laws of the Night World - the supernatural group consisting of vampires, werewolves, and witches - do not revel what you are, do not change a human into a vampire, and most serious of all, do not fall in love with a human.

James is willing to risk everything for Poppy because she is his soulmate. All appears to be going to plan when Ash, James' cousin and an evil and vindictive vampire, shows up and convinces Poppy that she must leave in order to save James from being punished for breaking the secret laws. Poppy leaves with him reluctantly and James sets off after them when he discovers Poppy is gone. Barely escaping exposure, James and Poppy set off to start their new lives together.

The Night World series is another series by L.J. Smith, writer of The Vampire Diaries series. While each book in the series is connected by a central thread, each volume follows a different protagonist who must face various challenges involving love, the "soulmate principle" and the Night World's strict code, which is why I have decided to blog about each book separately as I read them.

I liked Secret Vampire, as will anyone who enjoys vampire lore, because L.J. Smith mixes in some new with the old. For example, James was born a vampire and has vampire parents, but can still be killed by a stake through the heart. The book is quintessential Young Adult Fiction, so if you are not a fan of the genre, don't pick this book (and I'm assuming the rest of the series) up. Even I found myself rolling my eyes at some of the more ridiculous passages, that would have probably sent my heart a flutter and made me sigh, had I been 13 years old. Nevertheless, I enjoy L.J. Smith's writing and I am intrigued enough by the series to continue reading it. Next up is book two: Daughters of Darkness.

Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

NSparks does it again! Safe Haven tells the tale of Katie, a mysterious young woman who shows up in the small town of Southport, North Carolina, determined to make a new start. She lives on the outskirts of town, doesn't have a car, works as a waitress at a local restaurant, and largely keeps to herself. Alex is a young widower with two children who runs the local market who is intrigued by the beautiful young stranger. After a series of events begins to draw the two of them together, Katie finds herself letting her guard down and falling for Alex. She is ever fearful that her past will catch up with her and shatter her safe haven.

This is another well written NSparks novel and if you are a fan of his, you will enjoy it. I didn't find anything truly remarkable about the story. I thought the antagonist of the story was somewhat darker than in some of his previous novels and seemed to have no redeeming quality whatsoever. He totally deserved what he got. Other than that I wasn't overly excited about anything else. I wouldn't call the book boring...but it wasn't terribly exciting either. It was a quick read and I read most of it while sitting on a ferry in Greece.

The film rights to the book have been purchased and they are in the process of filming the movie, which will star Julianne Hough as Katie and Josh Duhamel as Alex. The movie is scheduled to be released in February 2013.

Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly & Martin Dugard

I picked this book up because Lincoln is one of my favorite presidents and I was curious to read this book after I heard so much hype about the book. I am not a huge fan of Bill O'Reilly, but decided to give the book a chance when I heard that it was written more like a suspense novel than a straight historical non-fiction book.

I liked the set up of the book - it is broken up into 3 parts. The first part of the book recaps the last week of the Civil War and the surrender of Lee. Part two focuses on John Wilkes Booth and the formation of the assassination plot. I liked how the authors didn't just focus on Booth and included the other players as well. I think most people who don't know a lot about the subject would assume that Booth acted alone and the only intended victim was Lincoln, and this book does a good job illustrating how this assassination plot's goal was bigger than just killing the president - the goal was to bring down the Federal Government, which is why it included other prominent political figures such as the Vice President, the Secretary of War, and General Grant. The last section of the book deals with the aftermath of the Lincoln's assassination, including the manhunt for Booth and the trials and punishments of his various accomplices.

I was somewhat disappointed with the book overall and did not appreciate the style of the book. In fact, I think in a lot of ways it detracts from the story. I felt that O'Reilly and Dugard took too many liberties with interpreting the thoughts and feelings of the various characters in an effort to make the book more dramatic and suspenseful. The problem with this style is that some of the more dramatic statements and conclusions can be construed as actual facts, rather than an interpretation of the truth. I think I would have preferred a more straight forward telling of the story. Nevertheless, people who are not fans of historical non-fiction, but are interested in the subject will probably enjoy the style more than I did. It is a quick read, so if you are like me (and have a pet-peeve about starting and book and not finishing it) and discover that the style of the book is annoying, at least it won't take you long to get through it. 


Before I Go to Sleep bu S.J. Watson

Imagine going to sleep every night and having your memories erased. Imagine waking up and not knowing who you are, not being able to recognize those you love, not being able to remember your past. This is Christine Lucas' life. Everyday she awakens in a house she cannot remember, next to a man to says he is her husband, Ben. He explains that she was involved in a car accident, which destroyed her memory.

One morning she receives a phone call from a Dr. Nash and Christine learns that she was been secretly meeting with Dr. Nash in an attempt to fix her memory. He tells her to look in the closet for the journal she writes in every day before going to sleep. As Christine reads this journal it becomes clear that Ben is not telling her the whole story. The journal becomes Christine's lifeline as she tries to figure out who she is and what is the real cause of her memory loss.

I really enjoyed this book. It asked a lot of interesting questions about memories, one of my favorite being: "What are we, if not the accumulation of our memories?" It was an interesting concept to think about - what if you really couldn't remember anything? How would you define yourself? What would tether you to your life? So much of our identities are wrapped up in our memories and our connections to those around us and to those we love. I think that is why amnesia and Alzheimer's disease are such devastating diseases. The author does an excellent job with the characters, especially Christine, and as the reader I found myself complete engrossed in the roller coaster that is her life as she tries to figure everything out. I felt incredibly sorry for her husband Ben, who appears at first to be the most understanding and loyal of husbands. As the story unfolded I thought I had it figured out until another event or memory would be introduced and I often found myself just as confused as Christine. It's a good read.


The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries Vol. 1-6

For those of you who are fans of the show, this is the series for you. These books are loosely based on the novels created by L.J. Smith and follow the story line of Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec, who create The Vampire Diaries TV show. If you have not checked out the TV series, I highly recommend it. Season 4 of the show premieres on Thursday, October 11th @ 8 pm!

Volume 1: Origins tells the story of two brothers - Damon and Stefan Salvatore.  Damon is the older brother, who does what he wants regardless of what others think. Stefan is the younger, more responsible one who always does what is expected of him. Their world gets turned upside down when an orphaned border named Katherine Pierce comes to live at Veritas, their family estate in Virginia. Katherine is unlike any girl the brothers have met and she has a dark secret...Katherine is a vampire. Both Damon and Stefan fall for Katherine, both unaware of the game Katherine is playing and her plan for the future. When a series of animal attacks and attacks on fellow citizens alerts the town to the presence of vampires, Stefan's father, Giuseppe Salvatore, helps form a secret council whose goal is to eradicate the demons tormenting their home. Stefan finds himself torn - on one hand he is frightened and repulsed by what Katherine is, but on the other hand he loves her...or does he?  When Katherine's true nature is discovered, Stefan and Damon desperately attempt a rescue mission that results in both of their deaths. Both awaken to discover that Katherine has begun the process of turning them into vampires. Both brothers now face a decision - to feed and complete the transition, or to not feed and die. Stefan is the first to complete the transition and forces Damon to feed as well to complete his transition. Now the question becomes, what will they do with the eternity before them?

The series continues with Volume 2: Bloodlust. Damon and Stefan are driven from Mystic Falls and make their way to New Orleans. Stefan is lost in his bloodlust, feeding and killing indiscriminately. Upon separating, Damon finds himself taken prisoner by a freak show and Stefan is taken under the wing of Lexi, a vampire who feeds on animals. Lexi helps Stefan gain control over his bloodlust and get in touch with his human side again, which he thought was lost to him. When Stefan discovers that Damon has been captured, he sets out to rescue his brother. Along the way, Stefan meets and falls for Callie, the daughter of Damon's captor. Stephan's failed rescue attempt get him captured as well, and the two brothers are forced into a fight to the death, until Callie's intervention allows them to escape. All does not end well, however. Damon's captivity awakes a darkness in him which results in him taking revenge on Stefan and in Callie's demise. Stefan retreats from New Orleans searching for a way to atone for all his sins and appease his guilt.

In Volume 3: The Craving Stefan travels from New Orleans to New York determined to begin a new life - apart from humans and without feeding on human blood. When he comes across a damsel in distress in Central Park, Stefan cannot help but step in to help and finds himself being welcomed into the Sutherland home and family. In his desire to belong to a family, to have companionship, Stefan allows himself to become apart of this family even though he knows it is wrong. He ignores the warnings in his head and soon finds himself wrapped up in one of Damon's plots, leaving tragedy, destruction, and death in its wake. To make matters worse, Stefan and Damon are now being hunted by an old vampire seeking revenge for the death of Katherine. The Salvatore brothers barely manage to escape and make their way to Europe.

The story flash forwards 20 years to 1888 in Volume 4: The Ripper. Stefan has settled into a quiet country life in England working on a farm for the Abbott family. Stefan has finally found some semblance of the peace and companionship he so desires. When Stefan accompanies Mr. Abbott to London he learns of a serial killer, known as the Ripper, who is murdering in the slums of London. Stefan quickly recognizes the Ripper for what he is...a vampire. As he seeks the identity of the Ripper, he becomes increasingly alarmed that the Ripper may be someone close to him. Damon and Stefan's paths cross again as Stefan becomes determined to solve the mystery, and Stefan encounters others of his kind, besides the old one he met in New Orleans, with dire consequences. Stefan fears that death will always follow him, as those around him continue to suffer because of their apparent association with him. He is determined to help Damon seek revenge on the vampires who caused them so much trouble in London.

Volume 5: The Asylum is a continuation of the story from Volume 4: The Ripper. Damon and Stefan find themselves united against Samuel, a vampire out for revenge for the role the Salvatore brothers played in the death of Katherine. Samuel has successfully framed Damon as Jack the Ripper and all of London is looking for him. Stefan is determined to to help Cora find Violet and to help Damon kill Samuel and his brother for all of the harm they have caused. When Stefan discovers that Samuel is using a local asylum, under the guise of philanthropy, as his own personal feeding grounds, he and Damon with the help of Cora hatch a scheme to get their revenge. When their plan does not turn out accordingly, Stefan realizes that in order to save his brother he will need to enlist powers beyond those that he posses. One thing is for certain, he is determined to save Damon, no matter the consequences.

Volume 6: The Compelled wraps up the story from Volumes 4 and 5. Stefan is desperate to save Damon, who has been taken captive by Samuel, but knows that he does not have the power to defeat him on his own. When Stefan saves a seemingly ordinary girl, named Mary Jane, from Samuel's attack, he finds the solution to defeating Samuel once and for all, or so he thinks. Mary Jane is a witch and together they discover that Samuel's plan involves so much more than destroying the Salvatore brothers. He is seeking a power which will allow him to not only compel and control humans, but vampires as well, and Stefan becomes even more determined to destroy Samuel and save the innocent lives of London. While the side of good prevails, there is always a cost - innocent lives are always lost. At the end of the story Damon and Stefan find themselves again at a proverbial fork in the road - Damon remains in London to return to his life of privilege and indulgence, while Stefan heads to New Zealand with the hopes of starting a new chapter.

I felt like Volumes 4-6 really could have been condensed into one book and the story did seem to drag on a bit. I was a little skeptical of the whole Jack the Ripper idea. The story did not have any element of historical fiction to it and I was a little leery of how they were going to tie it in. That element of the story seemed to drag on and started to feel like a superfluous detail that kept cropping up. It makes much more sense when you get to Volume 6 and I felt like the explanation behind it should have been introduced a bit sooner.

I hope that more books in this series end up being published. They are very quick reads - most of them are about 300 pages - and I like reading more of the back story of the characters I love on the show. Stefan and Damon talk about reuniting in Mystic Falls in 1913, so I am thinking that is were the story will pick up when and if more are published. Here's hoping!