Book Review: Dracula

Dracula by Bram Stoker | Book Review by Brittany at The 1000th Voice

Dracula
By Bram Stoker


Although not the first vampire novel, Dracula is the most famous original, the one that really seems to have influenced a certain awe with vampires for nearly a century and a half. And as most of us know, vampire culture is huge in the US. I wouldn’t consider myself a huge fan of vamp culture, but I’ve definitely read some of the books and watched some of the TV shows and movies. I’ll admit right here that I’ve seen two of four Twilight movies, and I’ve already admitted in the past to reading all but the latest Sookie Stackhouse book.

Review

I really enjoyed this book. From the vampire story to the epistolary nature in which it’s told, I was riveted. In the beginning we’re told that the manner in which the story was accumulated will eventually be revealed, but before then, we’re treated to first person accounts of Count Dracula in Jonathan Harker’s journal, concerns about her loved ones and wishes for their future in Mina Harker’s journal, a few bits and pieces about her sleepwalking ordeal in Lucy Westenra’s journal and a few memorandums and notes from other characters. Eventually, the journals all focus on one thing: Count Dracula.

I found the themes of the book–the role of Victorian women in society, immigration and more–interesting as well. In regard to the role of women, that’s mostly addressed by the back and forth the group of men has with Mina. Will she be allowed to help or won’t she? At times, she seems to be emotionally stronger than the men, going so far as to continue to encourage them and support them as she’s dealing with her own issues. But, yet, the men still aren’t sure how much involvement she should have.

On the matter of immigration, I think Count Dracula sums it up quite well when he explains to Jonathan Harker why he’s taken years to perfect his English before moving:

“But a stranger in a strange land, he is no one. Men know him not, and to know not is to care not for.”

For a time, that almost makes me feel sorry for Dracula but only for a short time.

Quotable

There are so many good quotes in this book, so here are a few of my favorites.

“I am all in a sea of wonders. I doubt. I fear. I think strange things, which I dare not confess to my own soul.”

“The last I saw of Count Dracula was his kissing his hand to me, with a red light of triumph in his eyes, and with a smile that Judas in hell might be proud of.”

“Though sympathy can’t alter facts, it can make them more bearable.”

“He was a good fellow, but his rejoicing at the one little part in which he was officially interested, of so great a tragedy, was an object-lesson in the limitations of sympathetic understanding.”

“I know what sorrow you have had, though I cannot measure the depth of them.”

Rating

Writing 4 out of 5 stars

See my quotables section above. I found the writing in this story to be almost top notch.

Character Development 4 out of 5 stars

The epistolary approach allowed Stoker to more than adequately develop his main characters.

Plot Structure 3 out of 5 stars

The structure of the plot was good, but I felt it a little lacking. There were many times when I was a little confused at the passage of days and each characters’ activities.

Storytelling 4 out of 5 stars

Really this is a great story.

Total 3.75 out of 5 stars

Have you read Dracula? What did you think?

Halloween 2013 The 1000th Voice Blog

Book Review: We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down

Book Review: We'll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down by Rachael Hanel | The 1000th Voice Blog

We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down
By Rachael Hanel

The story of my life is bound up in the story of my parents, their life in the cemetery.

Described as macabre and lyrical, Rachael Hanel’s memoir is about life, death, cemeteries and her father’s unexpected and timely death.

When Rachael was young, her father Paul began a career as a gravedigger. While talking about her father she writes about how he’d grown up as one of 14 children. Her grandparents worked hard just to feed their children. College and eventual careers weren’t in the equation. While his siblings found jobs, Paul build a career. As Rachael put it:

A career brings enjoyment, is closely intertwined with identity; it’s who you are. It’s not easy to separate career and life, whereas job and life have clear deliniations.”

While he took his responsibility to the dead and their loved ones seriously, Paul’s sense of humor showed in his business’ tag line: We’ll be the last ones to let you down. Rachael recalls him putting that tag on tons of promotional items. As a marketer, that makes me very happy.

Once her dad embarked on his career, death and cemeteries became a part of him, his life and his family’s lives. After spending countless hours riding her bike through the cemetery as her parents worked, she became very fascinated with macabre books of all kinds–true crime, ghosts and the like. She spent hours finding books in the library and devouring them and asking her mom to tell and retell stories about the deaths of their county’s citizens.

Review

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Writing a memoir is a popular thing right now. To be successful, the book has to be compelling and Hanel’s is–from her lifelong fascination with the macabre to her ability address the philosophical issues of death:

Some say we can’t see time, that it’s an invisible fourth dimension. But we can see its evidence–the gears of a clock, the swing of a pendulum, the aging of a face.

Rating

Writing 4 out of 5 stars

Storytelling 4 out of 5 stars

Cultural Impact 3 out of 5 stars

Total 3.67 stars

What’s your favorite macabre story?

Halloween 2013 The 1000th Voice Blog

Book Review: Catching Fire & Mockingjay

Review of Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire & Mockingjay 
By Suzanne Collins

I’ve decided to review these two books together because I read them back to back. (Thanks, entire series e-book!) Like watching a complete TV season on Netflix, having quick access to an entire book series is just plain dangerous. It’s even worse when the stories are “cut” so they end with a bit of a cliffhanger. Ahh…these editors and writers know how to hook us! When I started Catching Fire, I had planned to take a break from the series. After all, I was able to put my Nook down after finishing The Hunger GamesBut this was different, and late one night as I finished Catching Fire, I was immediately sucked into reading Mockingjay. 

Review

Like I said about The Hunger Games, Collins falls into a pattern of telling rather than showing action, which is easy to do when using a first person narrator. However easy, its effect is a weakening of the overall writing. But, who cares? It’s a great story.

Collins_Mockingjay_Waste

I love that Katniss is a strong female character. She’s tough, ruthless, caring and flawed. In short, she’s easy to like, and a good literary role model for the legions of young girls who have read the books. It’s not the primary role of the writer to create characters who are role models, but if she can, then she gets extra bonus points in my book.

Rating

Collins_CatchingFire_NotEquipped

Writing 3.5 out of 5 stars

I have some criticism of the writing, but it’s overall very good.

Storytelling 4 out of 5 stars

Well, it’s a really entertaining story. So…

Plot Structure 3.5 out of 5 stars

I can’t really put my finger on my issue here, but it just wasn’t a really well structured plot.

Character Development 3.5 out of 5 stars

As narrator, Katniss is pretty well developed, but the other characters aren’t. That’s part of Katniss’ character flaws. She doesn’t really understand other people’s motives. She’s a savvy hunter, but not savvy with people.

Cultural Impact  5 out of 5 stars

Not much to explain here.

Total 3.9 out of 5 stars

Have you read the entire series? Of course you have. What did you think?

Book Review: How Did You Get This Number

How Did You Get This Number by Sloane Crosley

How Did You Get This Number
By Sloane Crosley

Time certainly flies. I realized when I set my schedule for book reviews last week that I hadn’t reviewed this book and I read it it February/March!

Review

I’ve had Sloane Crosley on my to read list for quite a while now. Actually, she’s been on my list from about the time she became the voice of her (my) generation. I’m glad I finally picked up one of her books because it was a really entertaining read.

Sloane Crosley | How Did You Get This Number

While it was entertaining, I don’t agree with the title of “voice of a generation.” Depending upon where you look, Lena Dunham currently has the title. While I find her entertaining and do identify with some of what she writes, there’s obviously no way one person can really be the voice of an entire generation. That seems to open them up to more criticism than they deserve. After all, Lena and Sloane didn’t give themselves the title.

Rating

Sloane Crosley | How Did You Get This Number

Writing 4 out of 5 stars

Crosley is a strong writer. She clearly tells her stories in a funny and engaging way.Sl

Storytelling 4 out of 5 stars

Like I said, her stories are clear, concise, funny and engaging.

Character Development 4 out of 5 stars

Crosley was the main character throughout her essays. Obviously, she was clearly developed, but I felt that the secondary characters were as well.

Cultural Impact 3 out of 5 stars

Crosley’s first essay collection, I Was Told There’d Be Cake, was her big splash when she was crowned with the voice of a generation title. I would say that book had a larger cultural impact than this one. But Crosley is going to stick around for awhile, and plenty of people will go back to read all of her work.

Total 3.75 out of 5 stars

Have you read any of Crosley’s work? What were your thoughts? Do you have a favorite essayist or collection of essays?

To read more of my thoughts, follow me on Twitter. For more book reviews, books I’ve read and books I want to read, find me on Goodreads. Don’t forget to check out my Pinterest to see all the craft and home decor projects I’ll probably never do and some cool book and social media pins. And of course, If you like what I have to say, like or follow my blog through e-mail. Sign up is on the right!

Book Review: Alice I Have Been

Book Review: Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin | The 1000th Voice Blog | #historicalfiction

Alice I Have Been
By Melanie Benjamin

Once again, I have to state how great Twitter is. It’s a great way to build connections with people with similar interests and to connect with the authors of the books I love! On a late April Monday, I posted that I was reading the final pages of Alice I Have Been and then I’d pick up On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder. After posting, I tweeted a link and Melanie Benjamin replied to me!

It’s the little things that make me happy!

Review

This lovely novel fictionalizes the story of Alice Liddell, daughter of the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford and believed to be the Alice, inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s work.

Melanie Benjamin was inspired to learn about Alice after seeing an unusual photo of a young Victorian child scarcely covered in tattered rags. As I read the book, I kept wondering where the true story of Alice ended and Benjamin’s imagination began. Benjamin was kind enough to draw the lines in the book club discussion of the book. I found it inspiring to see where Benjamin filled in the cracks with her own story and how she told the documented parts of Alice’s life.

Rating

Writing 4 out of 5 stars

Benjamin wrote a fascinating, well-researched story.

Storytelling 4 out of 5 stars

It took me a little to get into the story (I at least partly blame being tired during the move for this), but when the story moved forward about ten years, I was hooked.

Character Development 4 out of 5 stars

As the narrator, Alice was very well developed. Benjamin fleshed her out well-from a tomboy to her mother’s daughter.

Plot Structure 4 out of 5 stars

To cover a lot of ground, Benjamin skipped the story ahead between ten and 30 years. She successfully used foreshadowing in the first section and flashbacks in the subsequent two sections to tell Alice’s story.

Cultural Impact 3 out of 5 stars

I think this book will stick around for a while. People who’ve read and loved Alice in Wonderland will be interested in the rest of Alice’s story.

Total 3.8 out of 5 stars

Have you read Alice I Have Been? What are your thoughts?

Audiobook Review: The Buddha in the Attic

Audiobook Review: The Buddha in the Attic | The 1000th Voice Blog

The Buddha in the Attic
By Julie Otsuka
Read By Samantha Quan and Carrington MacDuffie

Oddly enough with an hour-long round trip commute, I haven’t been listening to any audiobooks lately. I decided on a trip to the library a couple weeks ago that I should look at the selection of audiobooks. It’s a small library, so I didn’t have high expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised at the decent selection of books. In fact, last night I picked up two great audiobooks, books that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time!

Review

This was a really entertaining but brief listen. Unabridged the audiobook clocked in at about four hours. What this book lacks in length it makes up for in emotion. To say it packs a wallop is truly an understatement. The complexity of emotions, of many emotions to be more accurate, was stunning. It was, overall, a very heartbreaking story.
Audiobook Review: The Buddha in the Attic | The 1000th Voice Blog

Despite the deep emotions, the hallmark feature of this novel that will have a lasting impact on me is the narration. Told in third person plural, it relays the story of many Japanese picture brides who came to America in the early 20th century hoping to find a better life or, in some cases, just to escape from their current lives in Japan. Their experiences were in some ways different, but the challenges and events followed a similar pattern. They were very powerfully presented as shared experiences using third person plural.

Rating

Writing 4.5 out of 5 stars
Otsuka’s writing is strong, and she employs interesting literary devices to tell this story.

Storytelling 5 out of 5 stars
Otsuka tells a fascinating story about the shared experiences of Japanese picture brides in an interesting and emotional way.

Character Development 3 out of 5 stars
In the context of this book, character development is a little hard to rate. After all, we don’t know the typical things we would about characters, such as names, defining traits and motivations. But we do know about their backgrounds and their experiences in America. About the struggles they had in Japan and the struggles they experienced in America.

Plot Structure 4 out of 5 stars
Despite what some reviewers think, there is a plot, it’s character and historically driven.

Cultural Impact 2 out of 5 stars
The cultural impact of this book is more in the topic (Japanese picture brides and WWII internment) and also in the third person plural storytelling, but, still, the cultural impact isn’t very impressive.

Total 3.7 out of 5 stars

Have you read The Buddha in the Attic? Do you agree with my review? What do you think of the idea of telling the story of multiple people using third person plural?

Book Review: The Year of the Gadfly

By Jennifer Miller

2009 to 2010 me would laugh heartily if they knew that 2012 to 2013 me was going to say what I’m about to say: I love Twitter. Really, I do. It’s been a great way to “meet” people, gather and spread information and, relevant to this post, chat with authors.

Back in October, I wrote about attending the Twin Cities Festival of Books and my adventure trying to run into Jennifer Miller to get her to sign my book. While that was a failure, in November I tweeted:

The conversation continued a bit with a couple more tweets. Really, the point is that being able to connect with writers, actors, and other prominent people is one of my favorite aspects of Twitter. It bridges geographical divides and removes walls between people.

Review

Miller’s book was a real treat to read. It was hard to put down. It was also really inspiring in the way that any well-written book is inspiring for someone who imagines him/herself one day finally writing a novel. She showed a mastery of language and storytelling that truly impressed me. Miller also created really strong characters. Even if we only hear from them very little, there’s the impression that we really do know about them. Their motivations, actions, thoughts, etc. were all very realistic.

Cultural Impact

I’m sure it’s possible for this book to have an impact on culture, particularly for those who are interested in anything surrounding prep school. It is full of the air of prep school pieces that came before it, whether they are movies or books. The Year of the Gadfly is a great addition to a genre with a storied past.

Quotable

Jennifer Miller’s master of language makes her very quotable. My favorite quote, though, is a great example of her descriptive abilities.

The wind chill in Nye is like a pack of hornets zeroing in on your neck… (page 29)

Rating

I haven’t fully developed my new rating system yet, but I’ll just throw out a few categories for today.

Writing 4 out of 5 stars

Story 3 out of 5 stars

Character Development 4 out of 5 stars

Total 3.67 out of 5 stars

Have you read any great prep school novels lately? 

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