Dracula (Bram Stoker)

5 Star

Finally, the reason I have been away from this page for a few weeks – Dracula! I finished this novel today and I am very excited to write about it. It made a definite impression on me and left me reflecting on the story and its legacy on the genre of vampire fiction that followed.

Stoker is an excellent writer, and I stopped numerous times to note phrases that I particularly enjoyed. While I frequently underline quotes while I read, it is rare for me to stop to appreciate so much of an author’s language. He is especially impressive in his use of similes and other comparisons, creating sentences and paragraphs that flow together and make a reader stop to appreciate the elegant simplicity of his writing.

Many of my underlined passages come in the journal entries of Mina and Jonathan Harker, whose romance inspires me today, over a century after Stoker originally conceived of it. At the start of Dracula, Jonathan is away from his fiancé on business at Castle Dracula, and Mina becomes sick with worry at his continued unexplained absence. After being reunited, we see them marry and care for each other throughout the hunt for Count Dracula. Together, they discover and face their own weaknesses and imperfections, and their love for one another never wavers. This love inspires all those around them and acts as the continuous beacon of hope throughout the novel.

During the novel, I frequently wondered how much of the story Stoker invented and how much of it was taken from or inspired by existing 19th century vampire folklore. After I finished reading, I looked it up and was surprised to learn that Stoker actually borrowed much of the vampire descriptions from earlier essays and writing. This does not diminish the novel for me, but was definitely surprising as I was under the assumption that Dracula was the first concrete start of Vampire fiction.

However much inspiration Stoker took from other authors, it he clearly left a significant legacy on the genre. Elements of his story are reminiscent of modern vampire stories and television shows, and even of other fantasy stories. The hypnosis of Mina to spy on Dracula immediately reminded me of J.K. Rowling’s “horcruxes,” and the infamous connection between Harry and Voldemort. Maybe it’s the Harry Potter nerd in me, but this definitely seemed like a potential inspiration for Rowling’s idea.

This is probably my favorite of all the classics that I have read this summer, and I would encourage everyone who loves a good suspense story to pick it up immediately!

Play Dead, Stay Dead, Pretty Dead: Elise Sandberg Series (Anne Frasier)

4 Star Warning: Clicking through to Continue Reading will reveal spoilers.

The Elise Sandberg series got me through a horrific cold last weekend, and for that I am grateful. All three books were entertaining, with plot twists that kept throwing me for a loop. These were exactly the type of suspenseful crime stories that I needed to keep me sane while confined to bed for most of the weekend. While I hope none of my blog-visitors get sick, I would definitely recommend this series for those of you battling the beginning winter cold season. Along that thread, Frasier’s novels are exciting enough to bring spice to any boring day or event, whether you’re taking a long trip, snowed in, or otherwise unhappily stuck in one place.

The second book in the series, Stay Dead, definitely took the cake for me. This was my favorite, as it kept me on my toes and trying to piece together Elise’s experiences between the first two novels. After reading page 1 of Stay Dead, I actually closed out of the book on my Kindle and checked to make sure that I hadn’t accidentally skipped a book. I liked Frasier’s technique of not explaining what she was doing, and letting the reader figure out how much time had passed and what happened in that space. Frasier expertly leads you through what you need to know to become engaged in the mystery, without giving away too much too soon about what happened to Elise.

Crime novels, as much as I love them, often feature underdeveloped or shallow characters. In this series, Frasier deeply develops Elise and David’s characters, although she leaves much of the minor characters’ stories to the readers’ imagination. Sometimes this style of storytelling bothers me, but it did not so much in this case. Elise in particular has a very unique story, taking in elements of witchcraft and superstition that is uncommon to most literature that I read. At first I was a little turned off by Elise’s belief in these other-worldly ideals, probably because I am not at all open to such things, but her quirkiness grew on me as the story progressed.

Frasier also does a great job of incorporating Savannah, GA into her series, making it seem as if the city has a personality and a mind of its own. I liked the way the city’s history and ambience wormed its way deep into each of the storylines, and it actually made me want to go visit Georgia to see what all the fuss is about. As a comparison, I have read many books set in Seattle recently, and none of them were able to inspire the same interest in the city as Frasier has done in Savannah. I consider this a testament to her writing skill and ability to inspire an emotional response in her readers.  Frasier develops Savannah as more than just the setting, creating a unique atmosphere and feeling that persists throughout all three novels.

Warning: Spoilers past this point.

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