Review of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”

DraculaTitle: Dracula
Author: Bram Stoker
Release Date: May 26, 1897
Genre: Gothic, Horror
Pages: 554


BLURB:
DRACULA is an 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker. Famous for introducing the character of the vampire Count Dracula, the novel tells the story of Dracula’s attempt to move from Transylvania to England so he may find new blood and spread the undead curse, and the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and women led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing. DRACULA has been assigned to many literary genres including vampire literature, horror fiction, the gothic novel and invasion literature. Although Stoker did not invent the vampire, he defined its modern form, and the novel has spawned numerous theatrical, film and television interpretations.

Classic Challenge – Book Review by Wendy

I was excited to read Dracula.  I admit, I am one of those fans of a certain overly promoted series of books revolving around vampires and werewolves. I never went full out fan-girl and never backed either Team Edward or Team Jacob, but I loved their supernatural world, the characters and their relationships….preferably the book versions over the movie versions. Either way, that story and those relatable characters were easy to visualize, much in the same way that I connected to the story and characters in Dracula.  It could very well be because Dracula seems to be a basis of vampire legacy and pieces of Bram Stoker’s story have been told, retold, altered and embellished since its inception.

Bram Stoker weaves together an intricate retelling of this complicated story through journal entries, letters, diary pages, published news articles and doctor’s notes.  The first four chapters begin with Jonathan Harker’s journal entries and kept me captivated.  I was at a loss when the story changed from primarily his perspective in the Transylvania castle to the characters back in England!  For me, the book hit a lull for a time initially after this transition, but only until I found myself again engrossed with the events and emotions of the English personalities. The story is cleverly written and I loved seeing how events unfolded to incorporate the full story.   Even though the unspeakable horrors Jonathan experienced and witnessed in Transylvania are addressed, we never did get all the details or learn how he managed to get out of that evil castle, ALIVE and return to England.

I agree with Audrey, the very proper and antiquated speech can read like another language at times.  While reading, if I need to regularly refer to a dictionary my fascination tends to fizzle-out and my mind wanders.  Although I love Dr. Van Helsing, he can be quite a wind-bag (no disrespect intended).  In fact one of his own quotes from this very book sums up much of his monologue tendencies…”Alas, but that sentence is a puddle is it not?” 

Because I have read, watched and heard plenty of vampire stories, I had an idea of how this book would end…Wow! I was so wrong! I LOVED that I incorrectly predicted the ending to this legendary folktale. I won’t recap the ending in case there is anyone reading this who hasn’t yet read Dracula, but I will say it was a welcomed surprise.

Wendy’s Rating: 5/6

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Review of “Dracula” by Bram Stoker

DraculaTitle: Dracula
Author: Bram Stoker
Release Date: May 26, 1897
Genre: Gothic, Horror
Pages: 554


BLURB:

DRACULA is an 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker. Famous for introducing the character of the vampire Count Dracula, the novel tells the story of Dracula’s attempt to move from Transylvania to England so he may find new blood and spread the undead curse, and the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and women led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing. DRACULA has been assigned to many literary genres including vampire literature, horror fiction, the gothic novel and invasion literature. Although Stoker did not invent the vampire, he defined its modern form, and the novel has spawned numerous theatrical, film and television interpretations.

Classic Challenge – Book Review by Audrey

Vampires have been apart of folklore for what seems like forever. Reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula was interesting for me as I was finally able to understand what has been considered a major basis for the many interpretations of vampires.

The beginning of Dracula starts out slow, setting the scene for the next half of the book. The slow nature and outdated wording, of course made some of the moments feel endless and long-winded (especially the infamous Van Helsing). I found myself nodding off, but even when I had my doubts, the book always pulled me back in. A thing I loved about Dracula was the mystery and story that, we as readers, had to figure out and pay attention to as every detail was important. As the book progressed and unfolded, the connections in the details kept me intrigued and anticipating if my intuitions were correct. 

Of course, with any book, the characters are an important component, and I could not have asked for better dynamics or personalities as they completely shaped the story.  The intelligence and precautions of Dr. Seward and Van Helsing, the unique experience and knowledge from Jonathan and Mina Harker, the resolve and wealth of Lord Godalming and Quincy’s tenacious initiative combined with the bravery each character displays are all needed in the attempts to combat Dracula’s plans.  Adding in the love between Jonathan and Mina with the protectiveness each man feels towards Lucy and Mina, and the courage displayed throughout is remarkable.  All the characters meshed together to form their own family that I loved.  Oh, and don’t let me forget about Renfield. His crazy and devotion definitely brought humor when it was due.

Dracula is hard for me to review, because there is just so much to say about it, and I do not think that I could do it justice with words. I loved this book, and the ending brought surprise and mixed emotions as the outcome was definitely unexpected.

Audrey’s Rating: 5/6

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Breakfast in Transylvania

Mamaliga for Dessert or Breakfast; Inspired by Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Dracula 2

As we are reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula, we noticed Jonathan Harker mention several dishes he enjoyed while in Transylvania.  In fact a few times he even made a notation in his journal to get the recipe for Mina so she could learn to make it for him back in England.  Audrey and I thought it would be fun to attempt to make a dish Jonathan mentions in the book.  Since Audrey is a vegetarian, it ruled out Robber Steak and Paprika hendl (a spicy chicken dish) so Mamaliga it is!

Jonathan mentions having this “sort of porridge of maize flour” for breakfast while in the midst of the Carpathian mountains on his journey to meet the Count.  After a bit of research, I learned that mamaliga was commonly a peasant food used as a staple and a substitute for bread, however over time it has transformed into a classy dish, now even served in upscale restaurants.  My husband’s heritage is strongly Eastern European, from the Ukraine, so this was a personal history lesson for us as well, eat what his ancestor’s probably ate daily. 

Traditionally, mamaliga is made from yellow corn meal…Unfortunately, I only had white corn meal so our mamaliga is different than true Transylvanian mamaliga.  We ended up making two batches since the first recipe was heavy on salt. 

                                               Mamaliga 1                                     mamliga 2

We made a dessert using our second batch of mamaliga…the recipe I found stated as a dessert to add powdered sugar and plum jam on top.  We were skeptical of adding jam on top so we drizzled with melted butter, sprinkled with powdered sugar, a touch of cinnamon (our own idea) and sliced plum pieces.  The result was surprisingly tasty!  We even had discussions on how to alter things when we try again in the future. 

Mamaliga 3

I stored both batches of mamaliga in the fridge.  The following morning, I used the first, salty batch to make breakfast.  Now I am quite certain the mamaliga Jonathan enjoyed was much better than what I managed to come up with, but my concoction was still edible.  If I ever attempt this breakfast dish again, I would make a few changes, like cutting the pieces thinner and even incorporating butter into the mamliga batch while cooking it.  Overall it wasn’t terrible.  My husband and I both ate this breakfast version of mamaliga.  Our version’s recipe was thin slice of ham and thin slice of cheddar cheese between two pieces of mamaliga, dipped in beaten egg and fried in butter.  

mamliga 4

This was a fun experience.  In the future we will continue our attempts on making food and dishes mentioned in the literature we are reading.  

Love To Hate

Characters I Love to Hate – by Audrey


Love to Hate

Admit it, we all have them. The antagonists in our favorite stories that make you want to shout and pull out your hair! They ignite the very fiber in your body that deems that you hate someone. This is my list of characters that I have found myself loving to hate as I journeyed through the stories. And even though it is not a long list, it is growing.

                     The Key          Red          War
Lennik from The True Reign Series
Lennik is the brother of Darmik, who is one of the most beloved characters from this amazing series. Lennik, is a conniving and manipulative man who prospers while others are down. He has done so many atrocious things throughout the series that you can’t and would never ask for a better conceived villain.

Emperor Hamen from The True Reign Series
Yes, another character from this series. What can I say? The villains in this story are purely hate-worthy and bring out all of the bad thoughts you suppress. Though, I believe the best villains become notorious because you grow a connection with them. Even though unconventional, the association is needed to bring forth a worthy adversary and create a good book.

I will Not Tell Lies
Delores Umbridge from Harry Potter
We all know her and we all hate her with a passion. This psychotic lady who’s laugh makes your ears bleed and is the source of so much of our hatred while Harry is at Hogwarts. Yes, for me even He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named incites less injustice and is less annoying than this woman and her evil detention quill. 

Dracula 3
Dracula
Even though this name alone may not actively ignite a strong fire, the hearth in my mind is always lit when it comes to Dracula. He is incredibly intelligent and mysterious, making it insanely hard to read him and come up with what he might do next.  Combining this with his overbearing presence, you can’t help but love to hate him and his schemes.

Pride & Prejudice 2
Lydia Bennet from Pride and Prejudice
This self-absorbed and self-indulged sister of Elizabeth Bennet is the main source of my mockery and pain as I read this book. She was always making drama and putting herself on a pedestal next to her own sisters. She made me feel sick as to what she put her family through (even if her actions are not technically so scandalous in today’s society).

Review of “Singing In The Rain” (1952)

Singing in the Rain
Rating-Approved          Comedy, Musical, Romance       MGM Studios

Starring: Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds 

A silent film production company and cast make a difficult transition to sound.

 

Classic Cinema Review by Wendy:

I had never put much thought into the plot line of Singing In The Rain.  I just knew it was considered a classic and that I had seen clips of the scene from the song Singing In The Rain. After watching the whole movie, I realize why this musical is so endearing to so many. This is the story of a Hollywood star working to keep his career relevant while keeping up appearances with his on-screen love despite the formidable talent that his actual love possesses.  This movie puts forefront in my mind how talented so many classic actors and actresses were expected to be; Legitimate triple threats…Acting, Singing and Dancing.  Mostly now-a-days I find myself surprised when current actors and actresses can sing, and actually sing well!

I enjoyed comparing old Hollywood to current Hollywood, similarities as well as differences.  In one of the opening scenes, it depicts stars arriving at a movie premiere and being interviewed and photographed while walking the red carpet into the theater.  I found the scene familiar to current movie premiere’s or award shows, but with one major difference…now we expect the interviewers to also be glamorous and charming.  Young, fit and appealing, current talk show hosts are expected to be mild celebrities themselves.  It illustrated to me how times have changed as I watched this middle-aged, heavier and rather homely woman interacting with these beautiful stars while getting all the red carpet gossip.

It doesn’t take long to see the biggest talent of the show lies in Gene Kelly as Don Lockwood, Donald O’Conner as Cosmo Brown and Debbie Reynolds as Kathy Selden. The on-screen duo of Don Lockwood and Cosmo Brown is fantastic.  These two can act, sing and dance circles around most other cast members. Add in Kathy Selden’s beauty, charisma and singing talent and vualla…block buster, Oscar nominated, award winning musical!  Until this film, I had never seen Gene Kelly on screen before…okay ladies…I get it! This man is adorable and handsome!

Overall, the plot never gets too heavy, there is comedy in ridiculous situations, and one musical number after another.  The actors make this movie. I believe them, I enjoy their banter and the musical numbers really are fun and quite good.  

Wendy’s Rating: 5/6

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Review of “Alias” TV Series

Alias
Title: 
Alias

Network: ABC
First Aired: September 30, 2001-Season One
Status: 2002-Season Two, 2003-Season Three, 2005-Season Four, 2005/06-Season Five Final Episode Aired May 22, 2006
Genre: Action, Drama, Mystery


BLURB: 

Sydney Bristow is an international spy recruited out of college and trained for espionage and self-defense.

Current Crusade Review by Wendy:

I actually didn’t start watching Alias during its pilot season.  I old-school Netflixed it…by that I mean I requested DVD’s online from my Netflix queue, received the DVD in mail, watched the episodes on said DVD and then mailed it back before getting my next disc.  This was done through the actual mail (not e-mail) handled by USPS!

I still managed to watch most seasons this way.  One year for Christmas, my husband bought me the boxed collection of seasons one through four.  You may be able to surmise, by now that I loved this series.

Jennifer Garner portrayed an excellent Sydney Bristow.  The cast and story was layered and quite complex, but I enjoyed how relationships and drama unfolded. Sydney Bristow was beautiful, brilliant and kicked serious butt! By paying close attention to the interaction between much of the cast, I felt a closeness with each character. Some of my favorite personalities were not even considered part of the main cast…David Anders as Julian Sark, for example, was my favorite of Sidney’s rivals. I loved his character on Alias so much that I find myself easily liking the characters he’s played since on other shows like Once Upon A Time and iZombie. 

Seasons 1-4 were by far the best.  In season 5 the main focus shifted from CIA/double agent/crime fighting action to the personal drama between Sydney’s family and the evil Sloan and the supernatural world of Rambaldi. I was disappointed by this but obviously I watched through the series finale. This show did a great job of connecting the dots, giving specific purpose to details. One of my biggest pet peeves in any story (TV/movies/books) is leaving details incomplete and messy.  I am detailed oriented and I notice! I very much appreciate perceptive conclusions, Alias delivered. I would recommend watching this series to anyone who enjoys espionage, action, intelligent situations and complex specifics.

Wendy’s Rating: 5/6
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Review of “Puppet Boy” by Wattpad Author z0mbies

Puppet BoyTitle: Puppet Boy
Author: z0mbies
Series: N/A-Short Story
Status: Completed
Genre: Horror
Parts: 17


BLURB:

“My beautiful Puppet Boy and my beautiful Puppet Girl.”

A teenage boy and girl find themselves trapped in the lair of a crazy man obsessed with human puppetry.

Wattpad Book Review by Audrey:

Horror is a genre that I can honestly say I have not explored much. I hope to change this is the near future.  Puppet Boy is not one of those books that left you on the edge of your chair, or even got your heart pumping, and in that aspect I guess you can say it was a let down.  However, I have to give this book credit for what it did have, because the author z0mbies was successful in many other aspects.

Being such a short story, the length could’ve proved a challenge for character attachments. This was definitely not the case. Right out of the gate, I felt a connection to the main character, Tyler. You could chalk it up to the situation he was in, or you could say it was the memories that the author hung over him throughout the entire story.  I like to think it was a mix of both. Now, for the other character, I cannot say I was much of a fan, but that would be because of her actions later in the book (don’t worry, I won’t reveal the secret).

The overall cruelty of the man in the mask is outstanding and even had me surprised at the lengths he went to put on his “show”. The horror he inflicts upon the two he held captive was, although gruesome, never overbearing and only added to the story. As the book unfolds, and you find out the history of the three characters, you understand everyone, and I mean everyone. No one is left out of the loop, and every movement is with a purpose. This made the whole experience in its entirety, dare I say it, enjoyable.

The amount of time and thought z0mbies put into this story really shows through. Even with the use of only three characters, the book never felt bleak and the author made the most of these three characters.


Rating: 4/6

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