Friday, October 29, 2010

Dracula ~ by Bram Stoker (audio version)



"I am Dracula, and I bid you welcome . . . "

An enduring classic with an extremely charming, truly evil, yet almost human monster. I suggest leaving the lights on.

Synopsis:   With a Victorian setting in the late 19th century, a newly practicing attorney/solicitor from England is commissioned to visit a new client for his firm. He is to meet with this wealthy gentleman and stay at his castle in the mountains of Transylvania, while giving him advice on property acquisitions within the UK. The journey starts out decently for Jonathan Harker, but “red flags” pop up as he is warned by the locals and experiences eerie events during his journey to the Count’s country estate.

When he reaches his destination things are not as he was lead to believe. He finds that the Count himself is misleading and extremely intelligent, with a business savvy to match. Most disturbing is when Harker realizes the castle has no servants, parts are in complete ruin, he sees the count doing not very human things, and it appears that he is in fact a prisoner with in the castle. When he finally returns home, the young lawyer is beside himself, and worse yet it appears that he may have been followed. This scary story has only just begun.

Thoughts:   This is a wonderful tale which deserves to be read by anyone interested in classics, horror, and evil vampires. That it was written over 100 years ago and the emotions it incurs are still heart quickening, attest to the universal nature of this horror story and make it an enduring classic.

Set partially in Whitby, an amazing town on the East coast of England with iconic structures which still exist today, the story includes a variety of interesting and well developed characters, with our main character the Count, who is the evil embodiment of a sociopathic killer.

It is all told in letter format - epistolary or diary entries with each character well developed and interesting. Listening to the book in audio format, the telling is done via various voices and is close to perfect - old English accents, changing for each of the characters. I enjoyed it immensely. 

As for rating this classic I would say 4.5 stars. I recommend this version if you decide audio is the way to go for you.

Some Information about Whitby via travel pictures.

Below are pictures which John and I took in 2009 on one of our many visits to England where he is from.  When experiencing this book in its audio format these images helped it come alive for me. I could not help visualize this setting as it was described by the author. Also included below are several links to festivals based in the area, and a picture of our brother in law in full Dracula regalia at one such event which occurred last year in the town.


Whitby is on the Eastern side of Northern England. Set on the North Sea. The water is wild and choppy and very cold even in summer. This picture was taken from the pier which is located at the bay/river mouth and is a Southern outcrop of highland. Making this a perfect spot to watch incoming ships or marauders in this ancient  port city. It is also the spot where the gorgeous abbey is located,

This was taken during the summer June 2009. It was truly cold and windy, the norm for the area. Further to right on the mesa  you can actual see the little bits of the abbey’s spires. It is a key feature in several of the settings described in Dracula.

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Above are two pictures of the ancient abbey. They are described in the book exactly as they are pictured here. It was lovely walking through and inside the abbey, looking up at the architecture. Here is the historical setting for the spot:

The first monastery here was founded in AD 657 by King Oswy of Northumbria. An Anglo-Saxon style 'double monastery' for men and women, its first ruler was the formidable royal princess Abbess Hild. Here, Caedmon the cowherd was miraculously transformed into an inspired poet; here, the future of the English church was decided by the Synod of Whitby in 664; and here the relics of Northumbrian kings and saints were enshrined.

from the non profit site – English

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These are pictures of the hillside town walking down from on top of the plateau where the abbey is situated. We walked down on the cobbled streets from a very very old cemetery that is West from the abbey. On the left you can see across the channel and to the left the man made water breaker, which prevent the wild waters from coming into the river/bay. This water way is an  important setting within the book as well.15137_328923465230_904925230_9798285_6353174_n

To the right is my English brother in law, dressed as Dracula at a local festival held in Whitby, which the entire family attended.

If you are interested further, there is a gothic blog called Dracula in Whitby which gives you up to date information on a variety of festivals happening in the area.

  • Audio CD
  • Brilliance Audio on CD Unabridged; Unabridged edition (September 25, 2005)
  • Genre: Classic Horror

    Normally I would not include links to purchase, however since there are so many version and so you can link to the correct version I have done so on this post.

    Amazon purchasing links - US/UK/Canada or The Book Depository - AUD and Euro.  Amazon is an affiliate (where we only make cents per book) but Book Depository is not.

    Happy Halloween!

  • Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    Review by Shellie: The Unit ~ by Ninni Holmqvist


    A translated novel set in a futuristic and twisted democracy, it borders on horror with a realistic feel making it all the more terrifying.

    Set Up:  A story taking place in Sweden at some undisclosed time in the future, where there has developed a truly warped social system.

    The main character is a single women turning fifty. She has no family connections and is struggling financially. Dorit is required to enter a governmentally mandated enclave called “the unit”.  A place where all persons – men of sixty years and women of fifty - move to if they are deemed “dispensable”. That is if they do not have anything which is considered of economic value to give. In turn they live a life of luxury yet must submit to medical testing and donate vital organs.

    My Thoughts:  I really enjoy dystopian novels and this one appeared to have an unusual twist with a character to whom I could easily relate – a middle aged women with bohemian tendencies. There are a number of things that I liked about the book.

    It felt like a translation and I love translations. You can explore the locale and psyche of another country through the text with its unusual language nuances. This book was no exception with its lovely description of the local plants, landscape, and weather, as well as subtle differences in its cultural perspective.

    There is a secondary plot line which could be described as a romance. I particularly liked that the few unusual sex scenes included are not like your standard fare, which I usually skip over or laugh at.

    There are a few political topics which come up in the novel such as ageism and a subtly twisted version of feminism, which make for great for discussion topics.

    The novels I enjoy the most leave me with questions, and The Unit poses a few good ones. What kind of a democracy would value economic growth so much that it would sacrifice its older members? Is the nature of democracy only about growth?  How could a political system purportedly concerned with freedom develop like the one which is represented in this book? 

    A fairly short novel it starts out slowly yet picks up considerably where it becomes both illuminating and heart wrenching. It summarizes a few subtle elements of human experience in enlightening and relatable ways. And the best part is that it was just plain scary. It is because of these things it will be placed in my favorite’s list - on balance 4.5 stars.

    • The Unit
    • by Ninni Holmqvist  (translated by Marlaine Delargy)
    • Paperback: 272 pages
    • Publisher: Other Press (June 9, 2009)

    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    Review by Shellie: Hothouse Flower ~ by Margot Berwin



    A “trip” into the realistic yet magical where an urbanite discovers herself in the rain forest of Mexico. It’s city girl goes jungle Jane with consciousness altering plants.

    About:  Lila is from NYC. She is in her thirties and cynical as well as wounded from her recent divorce. She has sworn off men and most attachments - “no pets, no  plants, no people, no problems”.  However she breaks her rule when she decides to buy herself a bird of paradise plant from the hunky greenery vendor around the corner from her studio. This starts her adventures and discovery about the mythical 9 plants of desire.

    This humorous story, with its self- depreciating main character, takes the reader to the rain forests of Mexico. Where Lila is propelled by her quirky yet mystically oriented friend Armand to search for the illusive plants in order to repay a debt. As they enter into foreign territory into a place where fantastical elements are the norm, Lila herself makes a mildly hallucinogenic ride into self discovery and more.

    Thoughts:  Funny, fluffy and a very easy read, it was a needed break from the heavier stuff I have been recently reading. It was a foray into the magical. A chick lit escapist read with some mild romance which includes a gorgeous Huichol Indian from the mountains of Mexico.

    As Lila gets to know these plants with their anthropomorphic attributes, we get an interesting mix of fact and fun fiction about each, where all of the short chapters are headed with a plant (and a few critters) and their description. I think my favorite section was on the chocolate plant, native to Southern America, where the author includes a recipe on how to make chocolate from the actual pods. Fun stuff!

    I think this book will be perfect for any woman recovering from a recent break up or for anyone needing a light yet magical read. My mom is going to love this book being a plant person extraordinaire – me, the black thumb of the family killing cactus in the desert, enjoyed it just as much. I even found a few new books to add to my tbr list within the text of the novel - The Sheltering Sky by Philip Bowles and one by Carlos Castaneda. I love that. I give this fun book 3.5 stars. It was a blast.

    Interview with Crystal ~ Blogger and NaNoWriMo 2009 Participant



    NaNoWriMo is coming very soon!

    What the heck is it? ~ (That is what I thought last year so I have done some research).  Its National Novel Writing Month and from November 1st until the 30th, a ton of would be authors take to their computers or to the writing implement of choice, to try and achieve a goal of completing a novel of 50,000 words within 30 days! 

    A true challenge in my opinion, but for any one who has ever wanted to create a novel, here is your chance. Starting tomorrow you have a month to plan.

    In addition, I decided to go straight to a knowledgeable source and ask a 2009 participant a few questions. Crystal has kindly agreed to let me “pick her brains” to share with our readers.

    Crystal is a blogger at The Crystal Perspective where she has been blogging for a little over a year. Although very busy with real life, she writes excellent reviews and has some interesting personal posts to peruse. Here are her experiences around NaNoWriMo and some advice to share.



    Tell us about yourself and how long have your been writing?

    I'm an accountant and I live in Seattle. I've been blogging for just over a year. I started writing in the 4th grade and remember entering stories into every writing contest I heard about. I also won a school contest to attend a Young Writers Conference.

    Why write, what is your motivation? What types of things have you written - length and genre? Has any of your work been published? If not is this something that you would like to happen?

    The passion for writing is my motivation, and I write mainly fictional short stories.  Sadly, none of my fictional work has been published. I do have a blog where I post book reviews, but I've never posted any of my work.

    I would love to have my writing published and probably pursue publishing in the future.

    Tell us about NaNoWriMo - what is it? How does it work?

    NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month - is a personal challenge to authors to write 50,000 words from November 1 to November 30. There are no prizes, just the satisfaction of participating. If you do reach the 50k words mark, you do get to print out a certificate.

    Starting at midnight November 1, authors begin a story from scratch. You have until midnight November 30 to write 50,000 words (or more!). For your novel to be counted, you submit your work to the NaNoWriMo website, which officially counts the words. If you meet the goal, congratulations!!

    I know you were part of the program last year, was that your first year?

    Yes, 2009 was the first year I participated. 

    What was your process for the program? Outlines? Characters already defined? Start from scratch?  Or did you just start writing?

    I created an outline of the story first, with notes about main characters. Following my outline, I set aside time to let creativity flow. I typed the first ideas that came to my head. I wasn't too concerned with editing, there's time for that when NaNoWriMo is over.

    Are you worried about someone copying your work or using your idea(s)?

    I'm not too concerned with people stealing my ideas. When you upload your work to the NaNoWriMo website, they use software to count your words, then they delete your work.

    What did you get out of your NaNoWriMo experience? Will you do it again? What will you do differently?

    I learned that writing 50,000 words is a lot harder than I thought! I was also surprised with how easily ideas flowed once I did started writing.

    I would definitely do NaNoWriMo again!  It's a great way for any author to challenge themselves. I did not meet the 50,000 word goal last year, so I want to participate again just so I can complete the challenge.

    As for advice I would set aside more time to work on my story.

    Any tips or suggestions for “newbies” and participants?

    Even if you don't think you have enough time, I highly recommend writers to participate in NaNoWriMo. It's a great way to challenge yourself and get that story that's been bouncing around inside your head written down. Don't stress about meeting the 50,000 word deadline, just start writing and see what happens!

    Thanks Crystal for sharing.


    Here are some links: 

    Please let us know if you plan to participate in this event, so I can follow and support your efforts. If any one has any tips, suggestions, or links, it would be great to include them in this post. 

    Thanks for reading!