im_writing (im_writing) wrote in bookish,

Something Old, something New

The first review is from 2010, the second one is one that I've read in 2011 (though I think it's from the end of March.  I'm getting behind on my reviews again.  Bad Cassy!  I found a job though!  So at least that's something to show for all of my hard work!)

Title: Dracula by Bram Stoker
Rating:  2/5
Pages: 492
Genre:  Horror/ Gothic Novel

Summary (off Goodreads):  The aristocratic vampire that haunts the Transylvanian countryside has captivated readers' imaginations since it was first published in 1897. Hindle asserts that Dracula depicts an embattled man's struggle to recover his "deepest sense of himself as a man", making it the "ultimate terror myth".

When I first started Dracula, I was really excited to read the first vampire novel. It was the one the pioneered all others and, in an age where vampires seem to be the trend but are usually poorly done, I really wanted to see how they were originally conceived. I wanted to see how Bram Stoker wanted us to view the vamps. Unfortunately, Stoker got so caught up in his poetic heroes and heroic monologue, that I didn’t really get to see much of Dracula.

The book started out well enough and actually kind of scary. One of the first things that happens is a ship comes to port, steered by a dead captain. The entire crew is dead and no one can figure out how this ship made it to shore in the storm. It really set me up for a book that was going to be scary and creepy.

The other interesting thing is that nothing happens in real time in the book. It’s all done through the journal entries of the characters. I’ve read books done this way before. In fact, Dangerous Liaisons is one of my favorite books and is told entirely through letter writing. It makes the book different because your narrators are unreliable and you don’t always know exactly what’s going on. You have to trust that what they’re telling you is the truth but all they have to go on is their senses. In a book like Dracula, characters senses are often deceiving them, or worse, they don’t believe their senses.

You get to see Dracula’s castle in the beginning which is probably the best part of the book. Jonathan Harker goes to visit the castle to do business with Dracula, not knowing what he is or even the rumors. From the beginning, however, the reader can see that something is just not right.

Stoker creates this mysterious, scary castle that Harker gets trapped in. He fears for his life because he can’t escape and he figures out pretty quickly that it’s not someplace he wants to be. He knows that Dracula is some sort of creature, not a human and that he’s helped Dracula get to England. Harker’s emotions are so raw and vivid you can’t help but get drawn in and be just as scared as he is.

However, this is where my enjoyment of the book ends. Stoker then brings us to Lucy and Mina’s story lines. Lucy is loved by all and therefore it’s that much more tragic when she is turned into a vampire. Mina helps the men defeat Dracula but is almost lost herself. Yet during this time all you get is monologue after monologue about how brave Mina is being and how they couldn’t possibly put her in danger and how terrible the situation has gotten and how it’s their responsibility to protect the world from this creature. By about halfway through the book I wanted nothing more than to tell each and every character to shut up.

Also, for a book called Dracula, there was surprisingly little of him. I guess this was because of the format of the book but I would have liked to learn more about DRACULA’S inner workings and what he was doing and not necessarily from a third party. There had to be more to him than just, “he’s evil” that the characters constantly reiterated. Stoker could have done so much with him and he didn’t, which was very disappointing.

I did like that Mina wasn’t painted the Damsel in Distress. While the men kept trying to make her that way, she was smart and proactive. It was her idea to be hypnotized, her idea to compare the journals, her plans that helped them catch Dracula and destroy them. I like that she wasn’t just some delicate flower but a strong intelligent woman who really was the reason they were able to be successful in their mission.

Overall, the book was a big disappointment. I was expecting mystery and a real horror novel and I didn’t get that at all. Honestly, reading Dracula made me understand where a lot of the current vampire novels are coming from. They don’t differ as much as they seem. If you’re into scary novels and classic vamps… don’t read this.

Title: The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
Rating:  5/5
Pages: 320
Genre:  Contemporary

Summary (off Goodreads):  The three Andreas sisters grew up in the cloistered household dominated by their Shakespearean professor father, a prominent, eccentric academic whose reverence for the Bard left its imprint on his daughters' names: Rosalind (As You Like It), Bianca (The Taming of the Shrew), and Cordelia (King Lear). The siblings eventually left home and escaped their ponderous monikers with nicknames, but their mother's medical maladies brings them back. Before long, their unwelcome reunion reveals that they all have problems: Rose is force-feeding a troubled relationship; Bean is entangled in a big city case of embezzlement; and unmarried Cordy is pregnant. Eleanor Brown's first fiction has justly won praise as "thought-provoking... poignant... sparkling and devourable."

I've been putting off this review for awhile, not because I didn't enjoy but because I enjoyed it so much. Brown created a book that just hit me so powerfully that I wasn't really sure how to put it into words. It's been a long time since I connected so much with a book, since a book elicited so much emotion from me, but this book did.

Really the big thing about Brown's book is that we are given three different sisters, in three different situations and all of the situations are tragic in their own way. You feel for each of the sisters in a different way. They each have different problems in their lives but that doesn't mean that one's problems are any less important than the other's.

However, all three sister's realize that whatever their problems are, they're less important than the fact that their mother is going through treatment for breast cancer. Rose is debating whether she should go to England with her fiance or not but she never really brings the issue up with her sisters or mother; she's always concentrating on when she needs to take her mother somewhere or what she needs to do to take care of her because, as the oldest, that's what she does. She makes sure everything runs smoothly without complaint.

Bean (Bianca), stole from her lawfirm and had been living entirely outside her means. She comes home in deep financial debt. Yet, she goes most of the book without telling her family the kind of trouble that she's in. She doesn't want to put that pressure and strain on them and even when she finally does let her family in on the secret, it's her sisters, not her parents.

Cordy (Cordelia) become pregnant and has been roaming the US for years. She is very much a nomad but comes home because of her pregnancy and her mother's illness. She is trying as hard as she can to lay down roots in this small hometown of hers because she doesn't know what else to do. She also keeps her pregnancy a secret for some time, being concerned about her mother.

I think the family dynamic in this book is so great. It's just such a great example of how even though you might be different from your family, you still seem to understand them and need them. And they seem to know exactly what you need and when you need it, even if you don't. Cordy knew that she needed her family's support. She knew that raising a child on her own wasn't going to be an option.

Rose also desperately needed her sisters. She needed to let go, loosen that control and when you finally saw her live her life it was an amazing thing. Throughout the book, you're wondering how these parents could raise this kids like this, let them live like this but, at the end of the day, you understand that they really did a good job with them. That they came out all right even with their mistakes.

Bean was the sister I most identified with. Not so much for her financial situation, but for her place as the middle sister. Bean was lost in this book, something I could relate to, especially when I was younger. She was very attached to her sisters. She tried to act as if she didn't need them but when she finally came clean about her financial woes, it was her sisters that she confessed to in her time of need.

There was also a scene where Bean confessed to her Pastor. It was easily the most moving, most powerful scene in the book. Everything seemed to be working out for her sisters and her life just continued to go down the drain, through a series of a lot of her own bad choices. When she finally confesses to her pastor about everything, it's this incredible vulnerable moment that had me in tears. It takes a lot for a book to move me to tears and I just felt for Bean so much and was so moved by her experiences and her finally showing any sort of vulnerability you couldn't help but cry with her (my boyfriend, who was in the room at the time, made fun of me for crying. Feel free to maim him because I think all of you out there know what it's like to cry at a book.)

It's not to say this book didn't have it's downfalls. It fell into the "everything is happy and works out" stereotype at the end, which, especially with families and finances, doesn't happen. In fact, when it comes to families, I find that more often than not they're not just that easy. Family relationships are complicated, living, breathing things that always take unexpected turns and never turn out quite right. However, the rest of the book was so amazing that I could accept this ending.

The other thing that I loved about this book was that everyone was a reader. Everyone in this book was taught to lose themselves in a book, something I can completely relate to. They always had books with them, something else I could relate to. Books were a constant part of my life and the Weird Sisters were raised in an environment where it was books instead of television. I loved seeing that in a book because it's so rare to see books so incorporated into a book. I'm such a lover of them myself, it's good to see that love come from a writer.

Overall, I recommend this book to sisters. I think people with sisters would really relate to this book and really appreciate it. It's a very heartfelt book that really explores families and how they interact together.

You can read these book reviews and all others at im_writing  or my Goodreads Account.
Books so far this year: 12
Currently Reading:
The Mammoth Hunters by Jean Auel and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

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