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Dracula, by Bram Stoker

I chose Dracula as my horror book (combining w/'Read a book adapted into a movie. Watch the movie. Debate which is better.') for my 2016 (Blended) Reading Challenge. This also counts as a TBR book (to be read – a book I already own but haven't read), and since I never finished my 50 Book Challenge for last year, I'm totally double-dipping and counting this as the 'book more than 100 years old'.


Dracula


Once again, I find myself looking at all the 5-star reviews a 'classic' has gained and wondering why? I've realized that when it comes to classics, I'm like those people who don't 'get' The Beatles and wonder why everyone else in the world screams & swoons over them. (Disclaimer: Of course I absolutely adore The Beatles, but now I get how those odd, random non-fans feel.) I should also share that since I am actively working on one epistolary novel with a vampire character and have an idea for a different vampire-centric novel, I was especially interested in this most famous, defining, & beloved vampire novel. I took mental notes. I paid extra attention. I still came away with an overwhelming feeling of Meh.

The first half of the novel just dragged on so very slowly for me. I mean, it took me a full month to read this book, and the last half (where it finally picked up for me) in only two or three days. It just didn't hook me at all, and had I not already known of its infamy and had active reasons to study the novel, I probably wouldn't have even bothered finishing it. The setting was described well and fully conveyed the imposing, gothic enigma of a castle; I have a personal soft-spot for epistolaries; I've been studying vampires and wanted to learn all I could about the original novel & movie sources; questions were brought up to which I really wanted answers.

But it was a surprising bore. The pacing was too slow, the male characters all sounded the same unless steeped in stereotyped dialects &/or clichés (similarly, everyone described Dracula/Lucy/Mina using the exact same terms), it was heavy-handed with sexism (I give a reluctant 'pass' for the time frame and the strength that the character Mina was written with, “man-brain” and all -cringe-). For me, it finally picked up once people actually started being victimized/dying, and that was really the highlight of the whole thing. And really, it was more the descriptions of the vampiric feeding on others, or what they looked like at various times, that were the stand-outs of the book.

Towards the end, a lot of tension is built up and just...goes absolutely nowhere. I'm trying to recall if I've ever read a book with so much lead-up and so little follow-through. How to avoid spoilers? Tension...tension...tension...look at all this foreshadowing...overwhelming evil & strength...just kidding, let's go home.

Two stars given for endurance and sparking a huge and awesome genre, and an extra star given for the vivid descriptions and well-done epistolary timeline. IMO, that's pretty generous.

2016 (Blended) Reading Challenge

I will be merging the Read Harder and #BustleReads challenges, since several of the prompts overlap (or I can make them overlap). And whenever possible, I believe I'll throw in a dash of the Mount TBR challenge and read as many books as possible from the huge stash of unread books that I currently own.

However, I will be skipping the audio book since I am literally incapable of following along when being read to. I can't even follow catalogue descriptions Josh tries to read to me, let alone whole novels. And the one over 500 pgs, because I did that last round and want to actually finish the challenge this time. I'll also merge whichever prompts I can since I have a ton of books here at the house to work through. So considering that I really need to finish a few books not on this list, I'm shooting for a goal of 35 this year.


My 2016 Challenge

TBR Count: 1

1. Horror book (combining w/'Read a book adapted into a movie. Watch the movie. Debate which is better.' because I'm choosing Dracula, by Bram Stoker.) (TBR)
2. Non-fiction book about science
3. Collection of essays
4. Read a children's book aloud to someone else
5. Middle Grade novel by a person of color (PoC)
6. Biography (not memoir or autobiography)
7. Post-Apocalyptic novel written by a woman
8. Originally published the decade you were born
9. Under 100 pgs
10. A book by or about a person who identifies as transgender
11. Set in the Middle East
12. Set in Southeast Asia
13. Historical fiction set before 1900
14. The first book in a series by a PoC
15. Non-superhero comic that debuted in the last three years
16. Nonfiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes
17. About religion (fiction or nonfiction)
18. About politics (fiction or nonfiction)
19. Memoir by someone who identifies as LGBTQIA
20. A Play
21. Main character has mental illness
22. Written by a woman under 25
23. Non-western history
24. About an Indigenous culture
25. About Women in war
26. Graphic novel written by a woman
27. About an immigrant or refugee in the US
28. Reread favorite book from childhood
29. Feminist sci-fi novel
30. Set in Africa, by an Author from Africa
31. Book in translation
32. Contemporary collection of poetry
33. Modernist woman writer
34. [Book I already own]
35. [Book I already own]
x-posted

Long time no update. I've added Chapter 12 (All Out of Blood) to my Supernatural/The Walking Dead crossover – and this chapter has a cameo from the characters of Being Human (US).


Title: What We Become: A Supernatural/Walking Dead Crossover
Chapter 12: All Out of Blood

Author: Ahavah

Fandoms: Supernatural/The Walking Dead (TV) -- may have some influence from TWD comics in later chapters. Cameos from Being Human (US).

Rating: Mature

Warnings: Spoilers for TWD through Season 4 and SPN through Season 6. This chapter also includes brief mentions of the BH(US) characters' backstories (S1 & S2), picking up with an alternate Season 3+.

Pairings: Nora/Josh, BH(US)

Summary: (This Ch:) A family from Boston shows up at the prison gates, battered & weak after what they claim was a massive attack on a cannibal stronghold. The prison group is already stretched thin with a much larger Winchester clan visiting and odd happenings within their own group, but they're on high alert when the new visitors end up being more than they seem.


Chapter 1 I Chapter 2 I Chapter 3 I Chapter 4 I Chapter 5 I Chapter 6 I Chapter 7 I Chapter 8 I Chapter 9 I Chapter 10 I Chapter 11 I Chapter 12

Reading Round Up

I didn't finish the 50 Book Challenge, although I eventually plan to. I'm glad to have stretched myself outside of my usual spec fic genre, but I found that I really didn't like most of the books/prompts. It ended up feeling more like a chore than a joy, which defeated the purpose of trying to get back to regular reading. Turns out I'm a pretty happy, unapologetic genre reader. I hope to eventually finish all the prompts, but in between books I adore, maybe.

There are a few new ones (and probably many more) to choose from this year. I'm torn between these two:

The #BustleReads challenge encourages you to read women and writers of color.

The Read Harder challenge covers several genres I enjoy and also encourages you to read transgender, feminist, and PoC writers as well as books set in other nations or with a MC who has mental illness.

I'm leaning towards Read Harder because there's less YA and children's choices, which I don't particularly care for, but I may smoosh some prompts together and make a point to choose women & PoC authors. But I should probably smoosh the TBR challenge in there too, because thanks to our local librarian, our house is overflowing with books, and I really need to tackle reading through all of these & culling the ones not worth keeping forever.

I'll still be sharing reviews on my (still fairly new) Goodreads account. I'm debating whether or not to keep sharing them here on LJ, since there didn't seem to be much interest. I like being able to look things up with my lj tags though, so I don't know.

Decisions, decisions! One thing is for sure, I need to do more reading than social media. Okay, two things – I also need to work my way through all these boxes of books I already have!

21/50 - The Lonely Drop, by Vanessa North

The Lonely Drop (free download) is my choice for “A book that takes place in your hometown (or surrounding area)” in the 50 Book Challenge.


The Lonely Drop


I perused Goodreads lists to find books set in my hometown of Asheville, NC, focusing on free downloads or books I could find at the library. That pretty much brought the choices to The Lonely Drop and Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel. Having grown up in Asheville, I've always felt like I should read Look Homeward, Angel at some point. But I'm reeeaally behind in this 50 Book Challenge, so when it came to a choice between a 644 page overwrought 'classic' (which I've already learned isn't really my bag) or 92 pages of hot m/m action, I picked short & sweet gay love. And I'm pretty glad I did, because now I've found a new author to enjoy.

The Lonely Drop did have some issues, but the awesome carried it along just fine. I'm not hiding this review behind a spoiler warning since the book itself gives away the tropes and ending in one of the first pages, but if you want a completely unspoiled experience, stop reading here and start the novella after the dedication.

The Lonely Drop is a sweet m/m romance about two college best friends who share one fervid kiss, part ways, and reconnect ten years later. I'm giving it four starts because it was well paced, moved along quickly, the sex scenes were both hot and romantic at the same time, and I somehow plowed through without even realizing it was in first person present tense (not my favorite). It has a lot of romance tropes that I don't usually like, personally, but they were well handled. I really only had one disappointment:

THAT COMMUNICATION ISSUE, THO. Gah! Gaaaaaah! This is one of those where a whole lost decade would have been avoided if they'd both just spoken up, and they each had ample opportunity to speak up along the ride after reconnecting, but each refused until the end because plot/trope required them to. I mean, I guess it was a decent slow build if you like that kind of thing, but other reviews are right where they say that the two MCs acted more like high schoolers than grown men who'd learned anything in the ten intervening years. I was frustrated as a reader even though I knew how it would end up, and even the 'cryptic' stuff was air-horn-blaringly obvious and our intrepid MC was just clueless because, um, cluelessness.

Don't let that deter you if this is your kind of story, though. Everything else was so on point that it really is an enjoyable read, even if you're unfamiliar with Asheville. I'm not, and I got nostalgic actually knowing the places described in the book. Our MC, Nick, moved to Asheville after losing his mom, and I moved away after losing mine. The parts about his and Kevin's shared grief were really moving, and I don't think that's just because it hit close to home for me. The sex is a bit vanilla, but it's romance, not erotica, and it was quite touching once they finally got around to it. Overall, a very satisfying, if short, read.
Santa Olivia is my choice for “A book from an author you love that you haven't read yet” in the 50 Book Challenge.


Santa Olivia


I both liked and did not like this book. Honestly, I just don't understand why I didn't like it more. I'm a huge wax-poetic-about-Jacqueline-Carey fan, it had the kind of out-there premise that I love writing myself – and it worked. It had damn near everything I love: badass female Latina LGBT protagonist (more please!), dystopia, super powers, wolf hybrids, vigilante justice, viva la résistance, sex, cursing clergy... Okay, I'll admit that the many “fucks” coming from everyone's mouths right off the bat did, surprisingly, turn me off a bit. 'Surprisingly' because I'm usually all about the fucks. I don't know, I guess it seemed a bit overload in an attempt to say, “Hey, this is going to be a dark & dirty journey”...but then it wasn't exceptionally dark and dirty. Gay sex, subversion, sacrilege, and yet somehow much blander than expected.

I believe that part of this is due to the somewhat lackluster MC. Genetically-altered Loup, born of an escaped super soldier-type, grows up without knowing her father and has only vague hints about her true heritage. She just knows that she's different. She literally does not experience fear (or any of its sister emotions), which is handled well in a unique way regarding her upbringing. Carey does a great job of showing this, but it really leaves us with a completely unimpassioned main character. I know this was purposeful, because Carey writes beautifully complex characters and she does a great job of showing us the passion that Loup (and her father) incite in others, but I really would have loved to see some form of true passion, or a less one-dimensional character, in Loup. She fights injustice, she plots a childhood-long revenge scheme, she gets 'swept' up in a one-true-love-mate trope, and yet she really just kind of gets swept along in her own story. A typical scene goes like this:

-Any random supporting character- “Loup, you mustn't put yourself in danger like that!/Must be more circumspect!/You'll be the death us all!/We'll be friends forever no matter what!/You can totally DO THE THING!/I love you so, so, so, so much!/I need you, baby, right here & right now!”

-Loup- “Okay.”

Now, don't get me wrong, there were parts that I thoroughly enjoyed. The story had a good flow and satisfying ending, but at the same time, I would set it down for days – even a week – at a time and simply forget about it. It didn't grip me and leave me up reading nonstop, for days if I have to, to find out what happens, like most of Carey's books do. I got a notice from the library that it was due in a couple days and returned to it to realize that I was 2 pages away from the end and had simply forgotten all about the book. It was a decent story, I really liked the boxing angle, and I'll probably read the sequel because I like supporting Carey and want to see how she finishes this one up. But when it comes down to it, I just didn't really feel any passion at all with this one despite having so many aspects that I usually love. Unfortunately, that makes my meh-response all the more noticeable and disappointing.
The Martian Chronicles is my choice for “A book you own but haven't read yet” in the 50 Book Challenge.


The Martian Chronicles


I have the 1970 edition, which I think is important to note since different editions were often edited to include different stories. I'm iffy on how I feel about this one, to be perfectly honest. I'm actually surprised by all of the 5 star reviews. I waffle between 2-3, but hopefully writing this out will help me solidify my position. I love Bradbury (though I do have more experience with his short stories than novels, and this is, as he said, a book of shorts masquerading as a novel), but I found this one to be a disappointment overall.

There are definite signs of his writerly, sci-fi prowess, but not as much as I would have hoped. I particularly liked 'Ylla', one of the opening stories, which masterfully described a truly alien landscape. It was probably the strongest story, imo. The rest of the beginning was, for me at least, a bit distracting with some serious adverb abuse, and it just seemed a little too try-hard until he found his footing and started to flow better. His description is strong throughout, though.

I do like the over-arching (and true to life) theme of humans always seeking to conquer and attempting to mold a unique land into their familiar vision. The book is full of some good social commentary regarding the 50s, when it was written. That surely counts for some of the undying love.

But there were just too many weaknesses for my tastes. I was surprised by the lack of imagination for a spec fic novel, let alone one that's supposed to be in everyone's top-whatever lists. It was The 50s in a mildly futuristic setting. Maybe that was the point of some of the social commentary, but I kind of expected a sci-fi master to stretch technology a bit more than what was done here. Earthling colonists were still listening to their phonograph records, using typewriters, and filling their gas tanks – on Mars – for $1.50. Usually sci-fi tries to postulate some newer technological advances, especially if they're set in the future and working with inter-planetary travel. The rockets (and Martian setting) were the only things remotely sci-fi.

Worse, for me, were the attitudes. This book is chock full of misogyny. Not just that all of the astronauts, scientists, and, with the exception of Ylla, main characters were men. Even Martian 'men' put their women in their places. Female characters were flat and unrealized ('Oh! If there's anywhere I could find a woman on this planet, I should check the beauty parlors! Silly biddies with their mud masks and coifs.'). The racism in 'Way in the Middle of the Air' at the half-way mark was truly unsettling and insulting. I get that it was supposed to be (as part of that social commentary and all), but it was hard to read. And I just rolled my eyes and tried not to vomit as the racist MC wondered why all those [insert one of several slurs] were so eager to head to Mars when they're gaining rights every day, and, why, some cities even have anti-lynching laws now! Not cool. Even if it's 'ironic', that's pretty bad. That character was supposed to be unsympathetic, so mission accomplished, but I nearly put the book down.

Overall, I liked the descriptions and theme/social commentary – especially with much of it applicable today – but I really just expected more from Bradbury. 2.5 stars, I guess. Not the masterpiece I expected.

Mini-challenge: Mid-Event Survey

1. What are you reading right now?

Still working on The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury.

2. How many books have you read so far?

Mid-way through book #1. I really thought I'd be further along by now. :/

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

Santa Olivia, by Jacqueline Carey

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

Yes. The internet revelry this morning was my own fault, but the hubby is sick and the kids in good spirits but distracted. I'm trying to balance giving everyone the time & attention they need and nicely telling them to STFU and leave me alone.

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

All the awesome new friends I've made!

Tags:

Hour 6 Mini-Challenge: Top Ten List

Another Readathon mini-challenge, brought to us via Book Reviews From a Christian Gal.

Here are my Top 10 reasons why I love Dewey's Readathon:

10. Lots of activity & new friends to be found on Twitter.

9. I have an excuse to shut myself away & revel in books all day.

8. Snacks & booze drinks! It's a day for quick-meals that totally doesn't count against any diet. Truly.

7. Lots of mini-challenges that help you meet people & offer a chance to win prizes.

6. Convenient – October doesn't work for you? There's one in April, too!

5. Can't commit to reading that much? You can sign up to be a host or cheerleader.

4. Offers a chance to get on your librarian's good side. (We're book lovers – is there a one of us who doesn't have outstanding fines?)

3. Much like NaNoWriMo, the camaraderie and enthusiasm is both encouraging and loads of fun. You can make lots of new friends and find great blogs/twitter/goodreads to follow.

2. Sets a good example for the kids.

1. Books. 24 HOURS OF PURE, UNADULTERATED BOOK LOVE!

HOUR 6 MINI - CHALLENGE: POWER OF LOVE

For Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon:

Describe how a book (or books) have made you fall in love with them.

It's no secret that my absolute favorite books are those in Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy series (pictured: first trilogy).


Kushiel"s Dart Kushiel"s Chosen Kushiel"s Avatar


These books literally have everything I love in a book:

- Strong female characters who save themselves &/or others
- Excellent world-building
- Fantastic stories
- Well-rounded and fully realized characters (including love interests and nemeses)
- A perfect mix of reality/spirituality/magic
- Kinky sex
- An author who interacts with her fans, shares & encourages fanworks, cosplay, and fanfic/RPGs.


What's not to love? Terre d'Ange is my favorite world by far. I can – and do! – read these books again and again, never getting bored and always finding something new to appreciate.

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