Halloween Horror

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Happy Halloween! In honor of the hauntingly horrible holiday, I have a throwback review to share. Enjoy and have a bewitching evening.

Dracula

by Bram Stoker

Themes: love, death, blood, sex, evil, gender roles, mental illness
Setting: Transylvania – duh!, and England, late 19th century

Is there anyone who doesn’t know something about the story of Dracula? I think it would be almost impossible to come into this book, knowing NOTHING about it, but I am sure there are lots of others who haven’t ever actually read the book. (Or seen the real movie, either, for that matter.) But I decided it was time to read this one and see what it’s all about.

It was harder to read at first than I thought. We start off with young solicitor Jonathan Harker, on his way to stay at Dracula’s Castle. WHAT! What are you thinking! Don’t go there! Then I had to remind myself – he’s not being an idiot. He’s never heard of the count. Nobody has. This is where it all begins. It came up again later, when I was exasperated at how slow these people are to recognize what was going on. Don’t they know a vampire when they see one? Well, no. They don’t. This was one of the very first vampire stories, and much of the myth begins right here.

Other than that, it was really very easy to read. It was exciting and well written. The story is told in first person, in journal form and a few letters, which makes it easy to know what the participants are thinking and feeling. It makes it even spookier to here Dr. Seward describe what he saw when they broke into the Harker’s bedroom to find – well, I won’t give it away, but it was VERY creepy.

It wasn’t perfect. There was a long, somewhat slow section when Lucy Westenra is being pursued by this PRESENCE, that comes in through her window at night. I couldn’t believe how long that took. That was when I reminded myself that no one was supposed to know about vampires, so they could hardly be expected to figure it out. But it still took too long. Lucy would be attacked, she would almost die, they would save her, they would relax their guard, and then she’d be attacked again. Hurry it up, already! But once that came to it’s dramatic conclusion, the story picked up pace again and didn’t slow down after that.

I really am not a vampire fan. I am absolutely in the ‘vampires are evil’ camp, Team Buffy for me. But I don’t read vampire books much. Still, this is a classic, and I think that anyone who likes a good scary story would like it. I really liked my edition, which had a couple of essays in it. (As always, don’t read them until you finish the book!) The one in the front covered the history of the vampire myth, and the significance of Dracula in creating many of the things we think of when we think of vampires. It also had a run down on some of the classic movies, including a version starring Christopher Lee as the count, which I would like to see, just for fun. But the essay in the back highlighted some of my basic reservations when it comes to bloodsucking fiends – the sexual perversion inherit in the story. He goes through the book’s most graphic scenes and explores the sexual subtext in each scene. Very well written, and very persuasive as well.

It’s not a total gorefest or anything, but I wouldn’t recommend this book to my 13 year old, for example. But if you haven’t read it, thinking it’s too old-fashioned, or too hard to read, or too over the top, you should reconsider and give this one a chance. 5 stars.

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10 Spooky Stories

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It’s dark and spooky out there. And only going to get darker and spookier.

Why not stay inside in a nice warm room and read? I’ve got some suggestions here for some perfect books to fit the season. Let’s start with the family friendly stuff before getting into the truly terrifying, shall we?

  1. Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Honestly, my kids found this much less scary when they were young. But when they got older – that sewing on buttons instead of eyes?! Pretty freaking horrifying.
  2. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, also by Neil Gaiman. More atmospheric than truly scary, but a lovely ending. Perhaps more late summer than fall.
  3. The Thief of Always by Clive Barker. All four seasons in one day. Sounds charming, but maybe a little too possessive?
  4. 163919 Full Tilt by Neil Shusterman. An evil carnival. Still appropriate for this time of year, and as a bonus, let me include Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury if you’ve never read that one. Both get right inside your head.
  5. Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz. Odd sees ghosts. Mostly it’s guys like Elvis. But sometimes they’re not so friendly.
  6. The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier. This one makes you think more than scares you, but it’s so good that it’s worth reading.
  7. Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff. Timely and terrifying.
  8. The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon. Who are they and why do they come in winter?
  9. The Keep by Paul F. Wilson. When even the Nazis are afraid, you know there’s trouble.
  10. Dracula by Bram Stoker. If you haven’t read the original, you’ve got to do it. So. Creepy.

That’s my list for this time of month. None of them are very new, with the exception of Lovecraft Country, but there good scary reads all the same. What’s on your list?

Review: Skinwalker

Title: Skinwalker (Jane Yellowrock #1)

Author: Faith Hunter

Recommended by: My sister

Format: Audio

Genre: urban fantasy, paranormal romance

Jane makes a living as a vamp killer, but this is her first trip to New Orleans, and the culture there is well, different. Vampires are a major tourist attraction. The vamps have even banded together and set up houses. Some of them are ‘sane’ and accepted as members of society. But one has gone rogue and taken to killing – and eating – the tourists. And that’s not cool.

It’s Jane’s job to hunt this rogue down and kill him, and she’s got 10 days if she wants the bonus. (She does.) Lucky for her, she’s got a secret weapon – her Beast partner. Jane is a Skinwalker, thanks to her Cherokee heritage, and she can shift form into an animal. But this hunt is going to be her toughest yet.

I really wanted to like this book. I got it on audio on my sister’s recommendation. But I’m afraid I didn’t like it nearly as much as she did. I found Jane a little too cocky, her Beast form irritating, and I was put off by the amount of sexual undercurrent that ran throughout the whole book. In fact, I don’t think there was a single person who wasn’t discussed as a possible romantic/sexual partner for Jane. Like, take a cold shower already!

I liked the basic idea, but nothing about the book stood out in any good way. I was hoping I’d love it, since it’s the beginning of a long series, but it sounds like they’re all basically like this one. So, if I don’t like Skinwalker, I’m not going to like the rest. I feel like I’ve been on a losing streak lately – too many disappointments in a row. I’m not really enjoying any of the other books I’m reading right now either. Maybe I’m having an off week. Anyhow, I can’t recommend this one. But I’m didn’t hate it either. 2.5 stars out of 5, nice and average.

Book Review: Fred the Vampire

Title: The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant (Fred, the Vampire Accountant #1)

Author: Drew Hayes

Genre: urban fantasy, comic horror

How I heard about this book: Familiar author

Format: Audiobook

Source: Kindle Unlimited

I really like old Fred the vampire accountant. He’s a funny guy. There was a lot about the world of this story that I wanted to know more about. The book was a collection of several adventures, starting with Fred’s 10 year high school reunion. The story starts with Fred already having been turned into a vampire. In fact, we don’t learn much about how it all started until the last story in the collection. His reunion kind of takes a downturn when a group of werewolves turn up and start devouring the alumni.

I liked all the characters, but  I *LOVED* Bubba! The worldbuilding was was well done and it was genuinely funny. I laughed out loud more than once.

But there was too much swearing in here, especially for an audiobook. I’m not sure if I want to read the next in the series or now. The narration was done by fellow Utahn Kirby Heybourne, and he does a really good job. But like I said, I got tired of hearing the F-bomb so many times.

Bubba alone is worth 1 star, so overall, I’m giving this one 3.3 stars.

Working on a Biography Giveaway!

Who likes free books? Dumb question, right? Who doesn’t? My plan is to usher in the new year with a book giveaway. Right now, I have a stack of books waiting for a new home. Here’s the list so far, but it may change.

Free Swag: 

Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker by David J. Skal

Some Desperate Glory: The First World War the Poets Knew by Max Egremont

Marie Curie and Her Daughters: The Private Lives of Science’s First Family by Shelley Emling

All these were ARCs that I would like to share with someone else, and they’re all biographies.  Plus some grammar-themed children’s books.

Grammaropolis Presents Nelson the Noun

Grammaropolis Presents Vinny the Action Verb & Lucy the Linking Verb

Also a few bookmarks, stickers, maybe a trading card or two, and one steampunk coloring book

It’s a small stack of books so far, but if you’d like to donate some goodies for the giveaway, I’d love to feature budding authors, small publishers, illustrators and so on.

EDITED

How to enter:

  1. Follow my blog.
  2. Follow me on Twitter @cindy_bohn
  3. Comment below with your favorite book from 2016

Make sure you tell me your user name. You can enter all three ways, but there will only be one winner. The contest runs until January 2 at noon, MST. Good luck to all of you!

 

Vampire book review!

xmasvamp

This one totally should have been up for Halloween, but I didn’t finish it in time, so Merry Christmas, bloodsuckers!

Something in the Blood: The  Untold Story of the Man Who Wrote Dracula

by David J. Skal

genre: non-fiction, biography, and horror

where did I find this: Received by Library Thing for an early review – Thanks!

I’ve always been bugged by the sparkly vampire type of story. Vampires should not sparkle. They shouldn’t be the heroes of any story. They are the villains. I’m okay with them as silly, campy villains like in Bugs Bunny or Scooby-Doo. I’m fine with them as menacing villains like in Buffy. I like a good comic vampire. But as a possible romantic partner? A misunderstood sort of fellow who agonizes over his need for blood but at the same time keeps it PG and clean, avoiding any real mention of the violence inherent in its very existence? No thanks.

In a new book by David Skal, the writer confronts head all the most disturbing aspects of vampires, and he does it with a scholarly thoroughness. The blood and gore, the violence, the sexual dominance, the violation – he really examines it, what it all means, and where it fits into Victorian society of the times. He uncovers all the little secrets of Bram Stoker and his influences. If you are a reader who thought Dracula was just a crackling good horror story, you would appreciate it so much more when you see what you missed.

But.

Why are we reading so much about so many other things? Where are you going with this, Mr. Skal? So many times listening to this, I  would just be getting into the story of Bram Stoker, when the writer would introduce a new character, like Oscar Wilde, or Oscar Wilde’s mother, or Oscar Wilde’s brother, or a friend of Oscar Wilde – seriously, why so many Wildes? – and we’d wander totally off the into somewhere else. By the time we meandered back onto Stoker, I had completely lost track of what he was talking about before.

So I don’t know how to rate this. I think I’m going to take the easy way out and give it 2.5/5 stars and split it right down the middle. Also, if it does sound interesting to you, I would recommend the print version instead of audio. The author read it, and he did a fine job, but like I said, sometimes I wanted to skip ahead and the tracking made it impossible for me to know when a chapter was coming to an end.

Book Review: Companions of the Night

Reading Decathlon, book 9

Companions of the Night

by Vivan Vande Velde

Setting: modern New York college town

Plot: Kerry agrees to return to the laundromat before bed to pick up her brother’s teddy bear. But when she gets there, she finds the owner and some friends have captured and beaten a guy. They claim this Ethan is a vampire and refuse to let him or Kerry go. Kerry helps the guy escape only to find that he is in fact a vampire. Now someone has kidnapped her family and they’re going after her next. Kerry and Ethan team up, but can Kerry trust him with her family’s safety?

Pros: Um, it was short?

Cons: It was confusing?

Honestly, this one didn’t stand out much for me. I read it while waiting for the doctor today and it was good to pass the time. I did like the ending. Kerry was able to be smart and made some good decisions. I really appreciated that she wasn’t some starstruck vampire groupie. But I can’t say that I really liked it. 2.5 stars