The book Dracula is nothing like any of the movies or TV shows that try to depict him. There are no capes, unnaturally pointed faces or strangely coif...moreThe book Dracula is nothing like any of the movies or TV shows that try to depict him. There are no capes, unnaturally pointed faces or strangely coiffed hair, and no one ever says, “I vant to suck your blood!” Dracula is actually a fairly handsome gentleman with good manners (to a point) that does everything he can to appear as a normal human being: fashionable mode of dress, normal hair, polite conversation and if he is a little pale and his teeth just the slightly bit pointed, what of it? His good manners extend even to the point of entertaining his guests with jokes and stories that keep them laughing and listening well into the small hours of the morning. To his advantage.
If you take everything you ever heard or have seen about Dracula from modern media and toss it aside, the book Dracula is actually a fairly creepy tome in it’s own right, and with it’s own unique nature actually can be construed as even scarier. The best of the technology they had on hand seemed to do nothing to stop him and old wives tales and primitive treatments were their only protection in a war that no respectable person would have believed they were fighting. The insane that did believe them had their own ends for their belief, and I believe the lunatic in the novel was one of the freakiest literary characters I’ve ever come across, Dracula and his brides not withstanding. This was one of the original horror novels, upon which all others are today based.
One of the things I found frustrating about the novel was the amount of sexism in it. It was accurate and fully expected of the times, but the number of times they discounted or tried to protect women (and only managed to succeed in getting them killed or worse) drove me up a wall. The women were not helpless by any stretch of the imagination and, in their enforced cluelessness, managed to prove that by causing a whole lot of trouble that could have easily been prevented had they known what was going on. When they were clued in they proved invaluable assets in the ongoing struggle, but only at the end of all things, and only as an extreme last resort were they permitted to do so.
If you enjoy some well written classic horror, then I recommend reading Dracula, with the caveat that you should keep in mind the era it was written in and be prepared to deal with the strictures placed on society back then, and the influence that will have on the story.(less)
Just about everyone knows the premise of Twilight. A teenage girl named Bella Swan moves to Forks, Washington and while there catches the eye of the h...moreJust about everyone knows the premise of Twilight. A teenage girl named Bella Swan moves to Forks, Washington and while there catches the eye of the hottest most mysterious guy in school. He has several secrets and she is determined to find them out and when she does a great love story ensues. She loves him and he loves her back while at the same time wanting to kill her in a horribly bloody way to drink her sweet, sweet blood. It is all very romantic.
Now let me just say this up front. While the sentence structures might be simple and the characterization, dialogue, and diction severely lacking the book is a solid piece of literature. It gets young people reading, and while the messages might not be entirely up to snuff with modern day strides in women's rights, the book grabs and holds the interest of young people and among a generation that is reading less and less I think this is very important. It may not be great literature, it may not be enlightening or even empowering for the young women that read it; but for what it is, escapist romance, it does its job for its target audience very well.
I have a lot of problems with the book obviously. Nothing that just about everyone else has probably already said better than I can ever say it but here goes. As far as the mechanics of the book goes the characterization of both main characters really just sketch out empty shells for you to fill with whomever you might wish. Bella is defined almost entirely by her relationship with Edward. Edward is left almost completely in the dark and I'm assuming (hoping?) he will be fleshed out more beyond his amazing beauty and perfection in a future book. The dialogue was not very inspired or snappy. I've read even duller dialogue, I've read better too though. It was nothing to get excited over though. The diction, and by this I mean the vocabulary of the book, seemed very limited. We are told at least twenty or more times (I lost count after that) about Edward's angelic face. Snappy dialogue and a more varied approach in describing things might have improved the book, but I'm not convinced that working to fill in the characters would have done anything. I think that the series is popular because the characters are so vague. Bella is Every Woman.
Then there is Bella's... unhealthy world view. Bella is not only defined in the book by her relationship with Edward that is how she defines herself. If you are not Edward or one of his family members she doesn't care about you. She doesn't even really care for herself. There were a lot of dangerous suicidal undertones throughout the book. No person, male or female, should define themselves solely on another person and doing so results in a very unhealthy and unstable relationship between Bella and Edward. She wants to throw away her family, her friends, her future, her entire world, just to be with a guy that she had only met a few months ago and barely knew. A guy also that she knows is five times her age and with whom she literally has nothing in common save their sexual attraction to one another. Throughout the book I was hoping for that happy escapist romance feeling to take over me instead I just had a sort of sick uneasy feeling in my stomach. I was constantly frustrated by the main character's incredibly low self esteem, and felt red flags going up and BS meters going off with almost every conversation the lovers in the book had. If I had read this as a teenager I might have enjoyed the story, as an adult all I wanted to do was whisk that girl away to safety and shake some sense into her. Her life is just beginning and because all she can see is this shallow beauty before her in the form of a sparkling, deadly vampire she is already looking to end it. It just seems so sad.
I ended up giving this book a low 2 1/2 stars. I would have gone lower but I still felt that the book was solid, and not overly filled with errors or anything like that. I really believe that literacy is important and with so few people reading books nowadays we need to take what we can get. So teenage girls are reading, that is something, and as long as they don't take the messages to heart or define their lives or relationships by what is portrayed in Twilight they should be fine. And, I think they will be, their shallow beauty phase will be over and then maybe they will be ready to look at other guys and other opportunities that don't necessarily sparkle but have a shine all of their own.(less)
**spoiler alert** After reading Twilight I honestly though the series could not possibly get any worse. We already had anti-feminist and misogynistic...more**spoiler alert** After reading Twilight I honestly though the series could not possibly get any worse. We already had anti-feminist and misogynistic overtones, we already had a shallow and petty plot surrounding a shallow and petty character. A mammoth of a book had been built glorifying two teenage lovers utterly convinced that no one had loved as they loved before or would since. The worst is past. I didn’t think it would get better but I didn’t think it could get any worse either. I was wrong.
Warning: Contains Spoilers
In New Moon Edward decides for the both of them that he is too dangerous to be around Bella and so gets up and leaves. Bella has a complete and total nervous break down. She shuts off completely for a span of several months. She has defined herself solely through her relationship with Edward, without him she literally cannot function as a human being. This time phase is shown by simply turning pages with nothing but the name of the month on them. There is literally nothing more to write. Until Bella comes back to life and with only one main impetus powering that change, martyrdom. Her father offers to send her back to her mother and then offer to have her see "a shrink". Instead of doing either of these things she promises to get more involved with life, knowing it is a lie. Instead of actually seeking out healing she deliberately retards any growth she might have gotten from the experience out of some sort of martyr complex. Throughout the book I wasn't sure who she was trying to punish, Edward or herself.
This especially came home to me when she started becoming suicidal. She thinks she hears Edwards voice speaking to her and warning her not to do things when she is about to do something that might result in death. As a result she seeks out deadly and dangerous things to do, riding motorcycles, walking in seedy neighborhoods, even diving off of a cliff. She swears its not because she wants to die but that because it is the only time she can be close to Edward and hear his voice. In the end when she asks Edward about it he shrugs his shoulders at her, he had no idea what she was talking about. Bella really had entered a state of psychosis in a world where "forever love" turned out to be as temporary as teen love usually is. She couldn't handle reality. Luckily for Bella she doesn't ever have to face it permanently, or else this would be a really short series with a very early grave for a girl that refuses to grow up and take responsibility for herself.
The one good thing in the book was Bella's budding friendship with Jacob. I assumed that the relationship between Edward and Bella was so unrealistic because the author could not portray a real relationship in writing. This turned out not to be true. Jacob and Bella's relationship was built slowly through friendship, common interests and mutual faith and trust. Straight up until Jacob became a werewolf their relationship was natural, healthy and Bella actually started to heal in spite of herself and if it hadn't been for meddling vampires might have become a woman in an equal relationship, instead of a child in a controlling one. Alas.
After Jacob becomes a werewolf things change and take a dangerous turn and, finally, the book picks up and finishes at a much faster pace than the slow and dragging beginning. By the end Edward is back and he forces Bella to sever her relationship with Jacob. You can explain it away all you like, but in the end that is exactly what happened.
And so, the ending is here, the lovers are back together, they are going to love each other "forever" as they have been saying they would since about half way through Twilight. But then, things take a turn I didn't expect. Edward proposes marriage, and Bella turns him down. She wants love "forever" because no one has loved as she loves, no one deserves love like Edward deserves love. She wants to become immortal and love him forever. But she doesn't want to do so as his wife. Because her parents got divorced. So marriage is icky. What a complete and total child. I told you it got worse.(less)
I have sat and stared at this book for days now, have turned its pages and just could not find words to express how much it disturbs me. I can’t begin...moreI have sat and stared at this book for days now, have turned its pages and just could not find words to express how much it disturbs me. I can’t begin to describe my fears about the deeply held beliefs in this world that allow such a book to be so incredibly popular. I don’t even know where to begin to list all of its problems. I could understand the happy escapism of Twilight I could even begin to appreciate the attractiveness of the attention seeking self harm in New Moon, but there is nothing I enjoyed about Eclipse. It made me feel physically ill in my stomach to read it as all sorts of warning bells went off even more desperately than in Twilight, and without the hope of salvation that was in New Moon. So I will proceed with only a portion of my displeasure at this book, because its better than nothing.
The abusive boyfriend signs were even stronger here than in past novels in this series. Bella has choices taken from her, is actually kidnapped at one point, has her car engine disabled at another and in every way is treated like a child by Edward. He keeps information from her that might harm her, he restricts her movements within her social circles, sometimes physically and once even in her own home. He makes decisions throughout that should not be his to make, but it is written off again and again as okay because he loves her.
Jacob's character has taken a turn for the worst as well. His character turns abrasive and violent and he even forces himself on Bella at one point and when she attempts to defend herself and hurts herself in the process he laughs at his victim and blames her for broken hand that results. Her father joins Jacob in the laughing and in the blame further validating the misogyny behind the act.
Other plot points develop including more back story on several of the characters and the world of vampires as a whole. Several of these reveal underlying racial prejudice, anti-catholic beliefs and yet more misogyny. The vampires in Central America are violent and volatile and need to be tamed by the Italian based Volturi, meanwhile the North American vampires sit and wring their hands over it all but ultimately do nothing, need I say more?
The werewolves also are expanded on. Their history is explored and their characters developed. More disturbing themes come to light. Leah, the first female werewolf is hated because her fiance married her cousin when he imprinted on her and so the entire pack has to deal with her thoughts as she deals with her ex every day. The leniency given Bella when she mourned the loss of Edward is not extended to Leah. She is treated like, and so rightly becomes... well, a female dog.
I have yet to speak on the imprinting. The concept of the male werewolf attaching himself to a mate and becoming fixated on them for the rest of his life robs him of the choice certainly, but the female is also assumed to not have a choice as well. The reason being, why would you choose differently? That non-decision apparently extends even to the youngest members of the tribe when a werewolf imprints on a two-year-old child. We are told this is okay because he will be the best friend a two-year-old could ever have and as she grows he will be the best big brother, the best father figure, the best everything until they turn eighteen.
The age discrepancy is also waved away in much the same way Edward and Bella's is waved away. Edward looks seventeen, so he is essentially treated like he is seventeen. The werewolves also similarly do not age while they actively transform so when the child turns eighteen and the werewolf looks to be still eighteen that makes everything right and tight. The concept of pedophilia, of the very close similarities between what these werewolves that bond with toddlers and grooming seem to be lost entirely.
I won't even really touch on the de-evolution of Bella's character. Her self-centeredness, her insistence on throwing gifts and parties and other things people do for her back in their face, her eerie pro-bigamy arguments and despair, her lack of self respect and the way she allows herself to be treated "for love" are all absolutely horrific to read about. This on top of everything else earns this book one of my rare one star ratings.(less)
This book left me feeling half and half about it. On the one hand there is this super strong heroine with this wicked awesome back story and world bui...moreThis book left me feeling half and half about it. On the one hand there is this super strong heroine with this wicked awesome back story and world built around her that is fascinating to read about. On the other hand, there were some unrealistic elements and some of the character building left something to be desired. The plot was super fast paced and it was an awesome page turner, but the fast plot left out some elements that could have made this story a lot better. So, I’m torn on a lot of it.
In Nightshade we have a story of a girl named Calla who is Guardian. That means she can change into a wolf at will. She is the alpha of a pack of teen wolves and is strong, sure of herself, and rules the pack with an iron will and a don't mess with me attitude. She has been betrothed to a boy named Ren who is the alpha of his own pack of teen wolves and they are set to be mated on their 18th birthdays, which just happens to fall on All Hallows Eve. Things get complicated when Calla saves a human boy named Shay who is hiking up on the mountain that she is patrolling, against the express wishes of the Keepers whom she guards for, and then starts to fall for his mysterious boy when he shows up at school not long after.
The plot gets interesting when it delves into the world surrounding Calla and the two boys she now loves. Who are the Keepers and why do they need Guardians? Who are the Searches and why is this boy so important to everyone involved when he is only human? Why is information restricted from the Guardians? Are they really only slaves? There is also this great fast paced plot where you are left guessing straight up until the end what is really going on and who Calla will choose to be with.
That's where a lot of the negative comes out too. These are three of the horniest teenagers on the planet. Calla gets her horny on with both boys a lot in this book. Ren seems to push boundaries with her and pressures her a lot to show off how experienced he is. Shay gets further with Calla but at least claims to have more respect for her than that, though his actions belie his words sometimes. I got a little exasperated with Calla for going from being a strong alpha with a ton of confidence to being unable to simply make a decision and stick with it when it came to two boys. They both pushed her around (Ren sexually and physically, Shay mentally and idealogically) and they both wanted her and she just went with both of them for the longest time in the book which was frustrating to read about. I also found two incidents a little hard to believe with Calla and Shay, one was where they were laying out on a public library's floor making out, awkward for the librarian I'm sure, and secondly when they stop to kiss and feel each other up while fleeing for their lives, which I find very hard to believe any one would do. Also, to the reviews that say this book is safe for 12 years olds because there is "just kissing", I personally do not consider partial disrobing and getting to second (and hinting at third) base to be "just kissing".
I liked the feminist themes and the concept of slavery and freedom in the book but I also wondered if trying so hard to be a free and sexual being with two boys at once ended up undoing a lot of what made Calla so awesome in the beginning. She had such a strong and decisive attitude in her life and a no nonsense approach to leading her pack. When things turned to matters of love and the fight with her mother over dressing proactively (the mother wants her to, she doesn't want to) Calla loses a lot of her spirit and in the end starts having decisions taken out of her hands by the boys in her life left and right. It was a bit frustrating to read about. I liked Shay a little better because he at least tried to have respect for Calla, even though he did push her to tell him things that could get her killed and discover more things that could again get her killed. But, In the end, the one that seemed to have the least respect for her own mind on things was Calla herself and that was sad to see.
Fans of Twilight will probably enjoy this book a lot, as will fans of other YA paranormal fantasy novels. I do think that this book is best suited for 10th grade and up, personally. I am interested in seeing where this book goes next, largely thanks to the huge cliffhanger! But, I think too much of it bothered me to really enjoy it as much as others perhaps will.
Just for the record I am Team Unicorn all the way. I have loved unicorns since I was very small. I had stuffed animal unicorns, my little pony action...moreJust for the record I am Team Unicorn all the way. I have loved unicorns since I was very small. I had stuffed animal unicorns, my little pony action figures that were unicorns, even unicorn wallpaper on the walls of my bedroom (oh yes, there were rainbows too, why do you ask?). I was a huge fantasy fan even then. Zombies have been a much more recent addition to my life and while I do find them frightening, but in an intriguing way, I don’t normally get much enjoyment out of reading about them.
With this attitude I cracked open Zombies vs. Unicorns, a short story anthology edited by Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black. The purpose of this book is to have a show down between short stories about zombies and short stories about unicorns to see which one would come out on top. Some of the best YA fantasy authors contributed to this collection and it shows. Even the stories that weren’t as powerful as some of the others still had a shine to them that I appreciated and I didn’t feel that there was a dull one in the bunch.
There was a short introduction talking about zombies and unicorns and their relative merits and then each of the twelve short stories contained a short preface by the editors arguing for or against their specific champion as regards to the story presented. For the most part this was written humorously and sometimes with amazing insight into the story itself. On an occasion or two it skittered dangerously close to being degrading to the story or author and not just to the zombie or unicorn the author was supporting. Perhaps I was misreading intent though because the bickering did get a bit tiring by the 11th and 12th round as they started to run out of things to argue about.
While all of the stories were very well written and each brought up great points in their own way my two favorites were "The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn" by Diana Peterfruend the author of Rampant and "Bougainvillea" by Carrie Ryan the author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth. So, basically I liked a unicorn and a zombie story respectively each expanding on the respective worlds the authors had built in their novels with these short stories.
The unicorn stories both poked fun at their own ranks with tongue firmly in cheek or used the unicorn in increasingly creative way to examine different aspects of humanity. In "The Highest Justice" a princess uses her purity to bring a unicorn to her aide and see justice be done. I wanted this one to be a full blown novella because I wanted to read more after it came to a close. I thought that both "Purity Test", a story about a unicorn that is willing to be lenient on the concept of virginity if it means he gets a competent heroine, and "Princess Prettypants", a story about a girl that wants a car for her birthday but instead gets a unicorn, were laugh out loud funny and I enjoyed them very much. "A Thousand Flowers" ended up being more sad and introspective than I expected, as a unicorn leads a man to find a princess bloody and half naked in the woods. Finally, I think "The Third Virgin" is a must read as it shows the addiction to, and pitfalls of, seeking attention and pity when you deserve neither.
The zombie stories, interestingly enough, spent more of their time not being traditional zombie stories than otherwise. Most of them actually turned out to be a zombie romance! In "Love Will Tear Us Apart" a zombie struggles with his condition and with his feelings for another boy at the same time. In "The Children of the Revolution" the generation that comes after the zombie apocalypse decides to rebel in the way each new generation does best, by becoming that which their parents hate. In "Inoculata" we examine crazy celebrities, their fascination with staying forever young, and their strangely sinister and secretive religions. "Cold Hands" is another zombie love story with the living and the dead risking everything for love. Finally, "Prom Night" was the first truly sinister zombie story in the bunch and will leave you chilled to the bone.
If you are a fan of either zombies or unicorns (or even both!) I think you will really enjoy this book, bickering and all. For fans of Rampant or The Forest of Hands and Teeth this is a must read for the new back story and world building that those authors add in their short stories in this collection.(less)
This book was an amazing middle grade coming of age novel and I loved it! From the author that penned Coraline comes The Graveyard Book a book about a...moreThis book was an amazing middle grade coming of age novel and I loved it! From the author that penned Coraline comes The Graveyard Book a book about a young boy whose parents are brutally murdered (off camera) when he is a baby and left unattended he wanders into a graveyard. To protect the boy from the serial killer Jack the graveyard inhabitants adopt him and raise him as their own. They even give him a name of their choosing, Nobody. He grows up surrounded by ghosts and ghouls and other creatures more mysterious and left unnamed. Somehow with their help he must grow up and learn about this world and with the help of the dead be given the tools he needs to live his own life, hopefully before the serial killer comes back and snuffs it out permanently.
I loved the storytelling and the research that went into this book. I loved the history and little side stories we are teased with all along Bod's way as he grows up in a graveyard full of ghosts with memories and histories and stories to tell. I loved the illustrations as well. I thought they were lovely and well done and matched the mood of the book perfectly.
I was surprised at how sinister the opening was with the serial killer gripping a knife in the opening scenes. But the tension proved to be written well and it never went too over the top with it. Also for a book about ghosts, ghouls and things both dead and undead I thought the book managed to keep things interesting and light instead of getting bogged down in macabre. For example in one scene Bod explores a very old part of the graveyard that has been reclaimed by the forest preserve and ends up falling 20 feet into an open grave and twisting his ankle on a casket. I would be screaming at this point but Bod is not because the ghost from the casket comes out and turns out to be a doctor and insists on checking Bod's ankle for injuries before going to fetch help.
Because this is a book that deals with death there is a lot of discussion about what that means and the relationship between the living and the dead. I, for one, thought that being raised in a graveyard meant that Bod got to have a very enlightened understanding about life and death because of this at a very young age. He knows its going to happen someday, as it does to all of us, and he doesn't fear it because most of his friends are dead. I think this book could work out well to open up a dialog about death with a child as well as about life.
Neil Gaiman credits The Jungle Book at the end of this book as inspiration for The Graveyard Book but I was forcibly put in mind of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Both well written middle grade novels about a young boy coming of age. Both protagonists also facing death at the hands of one man who killed their family. This is one of the best books I have read all year even though it is not at all for my age range. I highly recommend it for children of all ages. Also I thought this book particularly lent itself to being read aloud as well. Combined with the illustrations it makes a great story to read with your children, though perhaps not just before bed.(less)