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Books 33-35: The Vampire Diaries Vol 1, Ice Cold Grave, and Grave Secret

Book 33: The Vampire Diaries (Vol1 The Awakening and The Struggle) .
Author: L.J. Smith, 1991.
Genre: Paranormal Romance. Vampires. YA
Other Details: Paperback. 389 pages. Unabridged Audio, read by Rebecca Mozo. Book 1: 6 hours, 31 mins, Book 2: 5 hours, 39 mins.

The first two books in The Vampire Diaries have been my audio books in the car for the last month, combined with some reading from the book. I decided to listen to these as I have been enjoying the TV adaptation and also was aware that these were written in the early 90s, years before the current vogue for YA vampire romance fiction. I wondered how they'd compare with more recent works.

The main protagonist is Elena Gilbert. She's beautiful and popular; the acknowledged Queen of the local High School at Fell's Church, Virginia, who prides herself on her ability to get any boy she wants. Naturally she takes offence when the new boy at school, Stefan Salvatore, doesn't fall at her feet in rapt devotion. She decides that Stefan will be hers and enlists her friends (or are they minions?) to assist in this task. Of course, Stefan is a 500+ year old vampire who responds to Elena in a similar way as Edward Cullen does to Bella Swann. These vamp guys really need to get out more! He desires her blood and can't trust himself around her so there is plenty of vampire angstation. The situation is complicated by the fact that Elena strongly resembles his lost love, Katherine. Then Stefan's brother, the dark and dangerous Damon, comes onto the scene. They had been rivals for Katherine's love and guess who is the new focus for their rivalry? There is also another underlying mystery that is an undercurrent in these two books but continues into Book 3.

It's pretty much vampire fluff but quite fun. Perfect fare for listening to in the car.

Book 34: Ice Cold Grave (Harper Connelly Book 03) .
Author: Charlaine Harris, 2007.
Genre: Supernatural Mystery.
Other Details: Hardback. 280 pages.

Harper is hired by a grandmother in Doraville, North Carolina to find her missing grandson whom she suspects is dead. There have been six boys aged 14-18 in the small town who have gone missing over the past five years, all of them unlikely runaways. Harper very quickly discovers eight bodies all buried in a patch of half-frozen ground on the outskirts of town. The town has to come to terms with the fact there is a serial killer in their midst. Not long after, Harper is attacked and injured and so she and step-brother Tolliver have to remain in town while she recovers. Reluctantly they became part of the investigation. The sensational nature of the crime creates a media frenzy.

This was quite dark and graphic work in terms of what Harper 'sees' about the way in which the boys died. I felt the series found its feet with this book with Harper being more engaged with the crime than just finding the body, collecting the cheque and moving on. It was good to see this development and I enjoyed this book.

Book 35: Grave Secret (Harper Connelly Book 04) .
Author: Charlaine Harris, 2009.
Genre: Supernatural Mystery.
Other Details: Hardback. 306 pages.

There was a welcome change of direction in this fourth outing for Harper and Tolliver. They are hired by the wealthy Texas-based Joyce family, who are looking for answers behind the death of their patriarch, Rich. Harper reveals something about another body in the family plot that opens up a proverbial can of worms. While in Texas Harper and Tolliver visit their families; their younger half-sisters, who have been adopted by Harper's conservative aunt and husband and Tolliver's older brother Mark. Tolliver and Mark's drug addict father has been released from jail and is seeking reconciliation with all his children. Harper is very suspicious and worries that Tolliver is being won over. Harper is also contacted by Texarkana Detective Peter Gresham, who advises that his department has received an anonymous telephone call reporting a sighting of Harper's older sister, Cameron, who disappeared eight years before.

So their past and various secrets resurface to complicate the situation as well as fallout from the Joyce case. It's a complex plot that pretty much draws a line under the series. Charlaine Harris has reported that she has no further plans to write more in the series and even though I enjoyed these four books, it feels like a good place to end.
Tags: mystery, paranormal, romance, vampires, young adult
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