"Games of men exhaust me"...and so exclaims Morgan Pendragon (also known as Morgaine, Morgana, etc.) in the Starz retelling of King Arthur's tale, Cam...more"Games of men exhaust me"...and so exclaims Morgan Pendragon (also known as Morgaine, Morgana, etc.) in the Starz retelling of King Arthur's tale, Camelot. And with those words I simply sum up my entire attitude while reading King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table.
I haven't read many books about Arthurian legend (in fact, this is only my second), but I've seen it retold quite a few times in both movies and TV shows. I imagined that when I picked up a book that told the tales of King Arthur, that book would be filled to the brim with action, intrigue, and romance (even if the whole tale with Arthur and Guinevere makes me roll my eyes every single time) the way it seems to be in those same TV shows and movies. So, imagine my surprise that I found myself bored beyond belief while reading King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table. Could pop culture have been that wrong? How can a legend whose gist of it seems to imply that magic, battles, romance happened in every corner be so boring? I mean, it can't be, right? Oh...but it was.
Not much of anything happened in King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table. King Arthur picks a knight...that knight meets a fair maiden...that knight tries to prove himself in a disappointingly less than epic battle. At times he's victorious, at times he's not (meanwhile I'm bored at ALL times). Then you have another knight...and the same thing happens all over again. I can't differentiate between these knights because you know so little about them. I guess this book includes a little bit of most of the Arthurian legends which means that you get a small dose of all the characters. But you really need a big dose to get a feel for the characters. Those small doses just made me not give a damn about any of the characters because I didn't really know anything about them. Even Morgan (Morgana, Morgaine, whatever!) was wasted here and that's the one character that everyone damn well knows remains intriguing in EVERY retelling. Yet in the moments she popped up, she wasn't doing much of anything (just little teeny bits of evil). I found that to be the biggest travesty of all.
So, overall, I found King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table to be excruciatingly boring. No swashbuckling knights are to be found here. No intriguing women are found here either (probably because they don't do much of anything. Something that I'm glad to see changes in a lot of the retellings). I'm highly disappointed and feel a little bit sullied towards other Arthurian books. I'm looking at my new used copy of the Mists of Avalon and wondering whether or not I should pick it...(less)
Ahh, vampires! Seriously, who doesn't love them? They have this alluring sensuality to them. Either that or they're down-right vicious. Needless to sa...moreAhh, vampires! Seriously, who doesn't love them? They have this alluring sensuality to them. Either that or they're down-right vicious. Needless to say, that the vampire has undergone a transformation as of late. They are no longer that alluring (to me anyway) and definitely not vicious. Not only have the Twilight books skewed the vision of the brutal and vicious vampire, it has made them sparkle. This is atrocious. Vampires aren't supposed to sparkle! They're supposed to kill you or turn you. Not walk along professing their "love" for a mortal. (Although, Edward was controlling as old-fashioned vampires are, so there's that). It's not only the Twilight series which has changed the vampire. Buffy (as much as I loved the show), took the award for the most angsty vampire with Angel. Whoever heard of a vampire with a soul before that? Then, they go and give awesomely vicious and brutal Spike a soul, too! Gah! But I'm happy to say that Dracula's Guest takes us back to the glory days where vampires were evil, not pretty boys with angst to rival that of teenage girls.
So, okay, these vampires aren't like those vampires in the film 30 Days of Night (weren't those vampires just scary as all hell?), but they're still pretty creepy. Dracula's Guest is an anthology of classic, victorian, vampire stories. Granted, I haven't read every single story, yet (I like to dip into short stories rather than read them in one go), but I've read more than half of them and most of them are pretty damn great. At first I thought I'd have trouble reading these stories since they are classics and those are sometimes pretty dry, but they ended up being page-turners. So much that I ended up reading way into the night without realizing it and then had to watch Andy Richter Controls the Universe to get vampire thoughts out of my head (which didn't really work considering that as soon as I was drifting off, my smoke alarm went off, for no apparent reason, and I jumped up and looked out the window to make sure there wasn't a creepy, pallid, face peering into mine. There wasn't, FYI).
I have to say that my favorites (so far) have to be The Family of Vourdalak by Alexsei Tolstoy and Wake Not the Dead by Johann Ludwig Tieck. The first just has the creepiest vampire who would look into his family's windows with a, you guessed it, creepy, pallid, face. Wake Not the Dead had the most vicious, manipulative, and FEMALE vampire. Add in numerous people telling the douche-bag husband "wake not the dead" and you have a story that's all types of win. Plus, there are numerous "true stories" that just really make the anthology not only scary, but interesting because you get to see what vampire customs (the garlic, the whole "they must be welcomed in" theory, etc.) started where or how they started.
So, again, while I haven't finished every single story in Dracula's Guest, the good ones seem to outweight the clunkers from what I have read. And I for one rejoice in the return of the viciousness of vampires. The angsty ones can just take a hike and take there melodramatic and pathetic girlfriends with them.
Edited to add that I actually finished the whole anthology today (a mere day after submitting my partial review; so much for dipping into it occasionally) and while I liked the first half better than the second half, I still think that the four star rating should stand. The stories that I thought were particular gems were What Was It? (Though not really a vampire story, I just thought it was weird and bizzare), Good Lady Ducayne (while not scary at all, it really was interesting and I liked that there were parallels between this story and the Elizabeth Bathory history), and And the Creature Came In (I don't know what it is with vampires and windows, but I don't think I'll ever look out the window with a sense of comfort ever again). I didn't really find any stories that I clicked with in Part III, but I think that's because there were only four of them while there were more in the previous parts. But still really great anthology and I have no doubt that I'll re-read my favorites when Halloween rolls around.
So, my criteria for Horror books is the same as it is for Horror movies. For me to actually be scared, the book or movie has to be generally scary. It...moreSo, my criteria for Horror books is the same as it is for Horror movies. For me to actually be scared, the book or movie has to be generally scary. It has to be about the chills, not just the thrills. Which means it just can't be a whole lot of gore, because goriness is not scary. The plot has to be a bit understated. And lastly, the mood has to be set. The Haunting of Hill House follows this criteria and does it magnificently.
You have these four characters who are staying at Hill House, and you start to genuinely care about them. So much, that you don't want anything bad to happen to them. But this is a haunted house story, so some trauma to the characters is kind of expected.
The thing I most loved about this book is that the mood is set from early on. Things don't start going bump in the night as soon as they get to the house. They start slowly unweaving and you start getting this sense of dread everytime the dark approaches. I thought this book wouldn't be that scary. I don't why I thought that, but I just did. So, I started reading it at 12 in the morning. I then put it down an hour later because I started getting too creeped out. Plus, I live in a pretty old house and people say that things have gone bump in the night here. I've never had any experiences, but who knows?
This is just a wonderful book. The writing is excellent and the characters aren't one dimensional. Sure, there isn't any gore, no gratuitous sex, and other things that have become the norm for horror books/movies. But it has what any good horror books should have and that is a level of creepiness. I think this is one I'd re-read again, but maybe closer to Halloween.(less)