Over a year ago, I wrote my first book review on this blog, and it was for Nightfall, the first book in this latest Vampire Diaries series by L. J. Smith. That book garnered a rather average rating, and sadly, this second installment will receive the same from me. I am still thrilled to see Smith writing again and anxiously await the concluding book in her Nightworld series, Strange Fate, due out later this year. However, I just don't feel that she is doing her original Vampire Diaries series justice with these latest books. (And yes, part of me wishes the series had been left as is.)So many of the main characters are mere shells of their former selves--in some cases, they are nearly entirely different people. Elena has become almost wishy-washy and silly--not the strong-willed, sharp girl I remember from the original series. In these books, sometimes she is strong, and then other times she comes across as weak and almost helpless. And I'd better not get started on Stefan--suffice it to say he makes me want to gag when he calls Elena his "lovely love." Honestly? So cheesy. He almost seems pathetic to me. Bonnie and Meredith don't seem to have quite the prominent roles they did in the first books, but they may be the characters who have stayed the closest to their original forms--along with Damon. Damon is a character that I enjoyed in the first Vampire Diaries books, and I believe he is far and away my favorite in this latest trilogy, which indeed, Smith was writing to give him a more prominent role.While this story did at times keep me on the edge of my seat and turning pages to find out what would happen next, I also felt like it was all over the place and often incoherent. Many times I found myself wondering what exactly was going on, the plot was so tangled. It is almost as if Smith has so many ideas for her story that she is trying desperately to get them all into these books in some way. I would say that it was helpful of her to include a summary of the previous book in the beginning, but it was so obvious that was what she was doing that it was rather annoying. (It reminded me of the ridiculous summaries in the Baby-Sitters Club books--each one had a chapter about how the BSC came into existence and described all its members, etc.)I hate that this review sounds so negative, because I definitely liked this book better than Nightfall. Right now it seems like Smith is just a shadow of her former self but I will stick with her to see if the books improve. Admittedly, as I was reading Shadow Souls, I caught glimmers of the L. J. Smith I know and love. Truthfully I can't see where there would be much to write about in a third book in this series, but I hope that everything will become clearer in that last book. I've been a loyal reader of Smith's books since I read her first Vampire Diaries series back in 1991--I've waited years and years for the finale of the Nightworld books--and more than anything I would like to see her come into her own in today's YA world.