Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Julie's Review: Dracula

 photo 6654c549-34fc-40ef-bfa6-98d52dd9c49e_zps8dc4a334.jpg
Author: Bram Stoker
Series: None
Publication Date:February 20, 2012
Publisher: Audible Studios
Length: 15 hours and 28 minutes
Narrators: Alan Cumming, Tim Curry, Simon Vance, etc
Obtained: purchased via audible
Genre:  Classic, Horror
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Really can't go wrong with this one
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: Because of the widespread awareness of the story of the evil Transylvanian count and the success of numerous film adaptations that have been created over the years, the modern audience hasn't had a chance to truly appreciate the unknowing dread that readers would have felt when reading Bram Stoker's original 1897 manuscript. Most modern productions employ campiness or sound effects to try to bring back that gothic tension, but we've tried something different. By returning to Stoker's original storytelling structure - a series of letters and journal entries voiced by Jonathan Harker, Dr. Van Helsing, and other characters - with an all-star cast of narrators, we've sought to recapture its originally intended horror and power. ~audible.com

Review: So, I finished this at the beginning of the month and my intention was to originally finish it in October but there's a little thing called life and more simply work. That didn't stop me from enjoying this audio version immensely. To say that it transports you to another time and place would be cliche, but it does. You can feel the drafts in the castle and you can feel the fear and horror as the characters uncover what is going on.

As I listened to the story, bits and pieces of it came back to me. Now I have no clue when I read it but I'm sure I did and what struck me as the most noticeable was how the Count wasn't the main character. He was the catalyst for the horror and was in the peripheral but never the main focus of the novel.  It's funny how Hollywood changes the story and since that's what most people know, they never get the true depths of the novel.

What Stoker does so well is create a great sense of foreboding that keeps building and building until the very end of the novel when it explodes. I love that the entire novel is based on journals/diaries of all of the main characters. It is through this that we get a well rounded view of the characters and the horror they experience.

My favorite character has to be Dr. Seward. Perhaps it's because one of my favorite actors narrates his sections but I found him to be refreshing and even having a little humor at times. He also seems to be the rock that keeps them from becoming completely unhinged. On the other end of the spectrum was Lucy, she was just the most annoying character. So shallow and vain. It's a wonder her and Mina were even friends.

The ending of the novel happens furiously and rapidly. I had to pause it and start it again several times, afraid I was going to miss something important. I also enjoyed having an epilogue to see where the characters ended up and how they got on with their lives.

If you've never read Dracula, then I highly recommend this audio version. You can't really go wrong with Simon Vance, Alan Cumming and Tim Curry each playing a part.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Jenn's Review: The Iron Trial

Author: Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Series: Magisterium #1
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Pages: 299
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  YA Fantasy
Rating: 3/5
Bottom Line: A school for magicians or a school for magical warriors?
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Just get it at the library
Blurb: Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial. Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail. All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him. So he tries his best to do his worst - and fails at failing. Now the Magisterium awaits him. It's a place that's both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future. The Iron Trial is just the beginning, for the biggest test is still to come . . .

Review:  Lots of people reviewing this are comparing it to Harry Potter, but a more accurate comparison might be The Magicians by Lev Grossman in that it is darker and more despairing. Unfortunately, that's not a favorable comparison for me.

One of the many things I find enchanting about Cassandra Clare's work is her ability to weave a plot.  This, however, felt more like a story outline that the authors did their best to go back and obscure with layers of extranea.  Unfortunately, I knew where we were headed from the outset of the plot exposition.  That can be okay if you love the characters and enjoy the journey, but I couldn't seem to invest in any of it.  The big reveal was supposed to be shocking, but it wasn't in the least for me.

Another thing I love about Ms. Clare's novels is the her depth of characters.  None of that was evident here. It wasn't that I didn't like the characters, just that I never connected to any of them. While the potential was there for all of the characters we never really get to know them, making them all feel archetypal.  This made it hard for me to invest in any of the characters.  Are we supposed to like Cal?  Probably as it's his story, but I think not being able to invest in him was the main reason this story didn't work as well for me. The authors actually start the novel by laying the groundwork for distrusting Cal and continue to chip away at him.   Every time I felt close to getting behind him something would happen to distance me from him again.

I adore Cassandra Clare's work and have heard fabulous things about Holly Black as well so I went into this novel with huge expectations.  Perhaps that is why I was so disappointed with this book.  Will I continue on with this series?  Maybe.  But only because I have great faith in Cassandra Clare that if anyone can salvage this series, it will be her.  However, it won't jump to the top of my TBR pile when the next installment is released.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Jenn's Review: Undeniably Yours

Undeniably Yours  (Lucy Valentine, #5)
Author: Heather Webber
Series: Lucy Valentine #5
Publication Date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: Blue Dandelion Press
Pages: 448
Obtained: purchased
Rating: 4.5
Bottom Line: Another fabulous Lucy novel
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!

While still recuperating from injuries sustained in her previous case, the last thing psychic investigator Lucy Valentine wants is to dive into another job. But when Detective Lieutenant Aiden Holliday comes calling for help in finding a missing woman, saying no is not an option. 

TV journalist Kira Fitzpatrick has vanished without a trace. There’s little for Lucy to go on except picking up Kira’s current investigation where she left off. The fearless reporter had been close to cracking one of the year’s biggest cases: the disappearance of a two-year-old boy. 


Now Lucy must use her abilities to find both of them. As she follows a twisted trail of lies and deceit, she uncovers a shocking twist to Kira’s exposé that someone is desperate to keep secret. It’s a race against the clock as Lucy struggles to discover who’s telling the truth…and who’s willing to kill to keep her from solving the case.

Review:  Whenever I'm looking for a book that I know I will love I turn to Heather Webber/Heather Blake.  I actually try to save her books, especially the Lucy Valentine seriesfor when I need a reading lift but Julie's review of the fourth novel, Perfectly Matched, left me craving a visit with LucyD.

Perfectly Matched had a significant twisty cliffhanger at the end and it was marvelous that Undeniably Yours picks up right where things were left off.  The supporting cast is more in the background this time around but they are still supportive and present in the story.  (Most of Lucy's friends and investigative team are out of commission after the last case so Lucy has to go this one with just Aiden.)  The case is intriguing and personal for everyone.  I had an inkling of where things were headed and I was not disappointed to be right, but I certainly wasn't completely right; Heather Webber always has good twists up her sleeve.

The only thing I wish there had been discussed more was her unusual predictive link with Sean.  Has it disappeared completely? Will it resurface?  Last book spent a lot of time dealing with Lucy and her abilities and while she did use them, I felt like I wanted a little more continuation with the exploration of this.  However that was a small shadow over an otherwise sunny novel.

There was no cliffhanger this time, but as always things were tied up just enough to leave you craving more time with Lucy and her family.  I love all of Heather Webber's books, but Lucy Valentine will always be my favorite, so I will patiently await her next adventure.