Monthly Archives: September 2013

Week 5 Reading: Frankenstein

Well folks, this week starts week 5 of our book challenge, and brings around our fifth book! This should be an interesting one, because this week overlaps two months – September and October – and therefore overlaps two themes. I wanted to incorporate September’s theme – books that have been made into Movies/TV Shows – but also start off our Halloween month with a bang! What could be a better choice than Mary Shelley’s classic horror novel, Frankenstein?!

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I have, to my great embarrassment, never read this book!! I’m really looking forward to diving into the Romantic Era novel, and discovering one of the most renowned classic horror novels! I spent 8 weeks over the summer taking a Romantic and Modern British Literature course for my BA in English, and we read a lot of Percy Shelley’s (Mary’s husband) work, but never even touched on Mary’s work – arguably the most famous of the Shelley pieces.

This book has been made into multiple movie adaptations, featuring everyone from Bela Lugosi to Robert De Niro as Frankenstein’s monster. My favorite adaptation, however, was Mel Brook’s parody “Young Frankenstein.”

I hope you get inspired to pick up Frankenstein for a read along this week, and start getting into the Halloween spirit! Decorations go up around my house on the first for a full month of Halloween, and Frankenstein is a great way to start it all off!

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Book Review: Darkly Dreaming Dexter

Congratulations, readers – we just finished our fourth book (in as many weeks) and our last book for the month of September (forgetting, of course, our September/October crossover book, Frankenstein). What a way to finish September’s theme of books that have been made into Movies/TV shows! Of course, this week brought around the finale of one of my favorite shows, “Dexter.” I haven’t watched the big finale yet – I think I’m feeling a sense of sorrow over it ending, and am a little fearful of the outcome, but I digress…. Little known too most (well, those who don’t pay attention to the show’s intro), the infamous series was inspired by the Dexter book series by Jeff Lindsay. This week, we read Lindsay’s first installment, Darkly Dreaming Dexter.

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What a thriller this novel was! Lindsay introduces us to a character who is charming, attractive, likeable and – well – a serial killer. Dexter, the novel’s protagonist, is forgiven by a few redeeming qualities: his protection of his sister, his practice of only killing “people who deserve it” (child rapists, murderers, the scum of society), and his complete lack of human emotion. This last quality translates into a good bit of dry (and exceptionally dark) humor, bringing light into Lindsay’s novel – a much welcome break from the tension Lindsay creates.

Dexter is a blood spatter analyst for the Miami Metro Police Department’s homicide unit – a wonderful and ironic profession for a sociopathic killer. The homicide unit begins investigating a string of particularly gruesome murders – murders that pique Dexter’s interest and tickle a repressed memory he cannot put his finger on. In trying to solve the murder (and figure out why he feels a kinship with the killer), Dexter begins to suspect that maybe he is the murder, and his “Dark Passenger” is taking over while Dexter is darkly dreaming. Dexter is torn between wanting to find the killer, and trying to convince himself that his innate ability to understand the murders and the motives behind them is not because he is committing murder in his sleep.

Dexter’s internal monologue – both with himself and his “Dark Passenger” – drive the story, allowing us to not only understand, but sympathize with Lindsay’s main man. This is one thing the novel does better than the show ever did – and one of the biggest differences between Dexter-the-show, and Dexter-the-book. Dexter is not, as seen in the show, a man with the innate desire to kill. He is, in fact, a man who has a force inside of him that cannot be controlled, despite his best efforts – something that is entirely separate from Dexter-the-man. This “Dark Passenger” (or “lizard brain”) is as old as mankind, and Dexter sees it in different people – people who are hiding in plain sight. Perhaps this “lizard brain” is in all of us – shoved in some dark corner of our brain. If we’re all being honest with ourselves, aren’t we all prone to irrational bursts of anger and terrible thoughts? It is our ability to control these things, and completely dismiss them as the terrible thoughts they are, which separates us from the Dexters of the world.

 I felt like Dexter spent an exceptional amount of time trying to convince us – and himself – that he was different from the rest of us. His thoughts are spent referring to “humans” as if they were separate from him, yet he experiences completely human feelings like love (for his sister), fear and anger. At the end of the story, with a great climax, Dexter reveals his true humanity – although he cannot accept it himself.

The high tension and mystery in Darkly Dreaming Dexter made it a captivating read! Lindsay hooks you on many levels – first through your desire to better understand the character, then through your wish to find the killer, and next in sharing Dexter’s need to know why the murders are so familiar to him.

If you’re a fan of the show, the first season is inspired directly by this novel, but the book offers enough differences to keep you on the edge of your seat. Try not to spend time comparing the two – many changes were made to expand a 223-page book into a season with 10 hour-long episodes. Crime fiction isn’t really my “genre of choice,” but I’m so happy I finally picked up a Dexter book, and am looking forward to reading the rest of the series. The “alternate universe” of the books (vs. the show) allows the world of Dexter to continue in my mind!

So what do you think? Did you like Darkly Dreaming Dexter? Are you a fan of the show? Did the differences (and similarities) throw you off at all? How do you feel about Dexter’s “lizard brain?” Do you hate yourself for loving a serial killer?! If you’ve seen the end of the show – please don’t leave any SPOILERS! I haven’t gotten there yet, and I might tap into my lizard brain if someone ruins it for me (just kidding)!!!

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October Reading

The end of September is rapidly approaching, and with it the first month of my 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge is coming to a close! It’s hard to imagine that: 1) I’ve actually kept up with my schedule so far; and 2) It’s almost Halloween!! Cannot wait!

Speaking of Halloween, the holiday was the inspiration for the book selection for October. That’s right – October’s theme is “Halloween” (surprise surprise)! Now, I didn’t want to just pick horror novels, so I dug deep (and asked for inspiration from some great friends) and came up with a list of books I’m happy with. So, without further ado, here is October’s book selection!

Sept. 29 – Oct 5. – Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

  • This novel is a good crossover between September’s “Movie/TV” theme, and October’s “Halloween” theme. Shelley’s classic horror novel has been adapted into dozens of different movies, and her monster has been played by everyone from Boris Karloff to Robert De Niro. In 2014, Aaron Eckhart will don the bolts in “I, Frankenstein” (the verdict is still out on that one…). What better way to start off our Halloween month than with the real story?!

Oct. 6 – Oct 12The Mist – Steven King

  • Here comes a really embarrassing admission: I have never read a Steven King book before. Not once. I’ve seen plenty of the movies (I love horror films), but never picked up one of his books! I should probably be rewarded for this feat considering that it’s almost impossible to avoid his book with how many he’s written, but… it’s just never happened for me (my mother is probably gasping in horror at this point because I know she encouraged me to read The Stand at different points in my life… sorry, Mom). Why did I choose The Mist? Well, if I’m being honest, it was the only one at the used book store that I hadn’t seen the movie adaptation for, and I was anxious for a new scary story!

Oct. 13 – Oct. 19Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – Seth Grahame-Smith

  • Well, we finally have our first comedy book on our list! This “biographical horror story” tells about Abraham Lincoln’s secret life as a vampire hunter! Did you know he not only created great social change in America, but also rid our country of vampires? Join me in reading all about his heroic life! This should be a good break from the horror novels, and bring some “light” to our Halloween theme! This book was  a recommendation from a friend (thanks Shannon!!!), and I can’t wait to give it a shot!

Oct. 20 – 26 Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil – John Berendt

  • This book is our first non-fiction on our list, as well as our first mystery story. It tells about a group of society ladies in Georgia who are somehow connected to a shooting that is being investigated … but is it murder or self defense? To be honest, I wouldn’t have picked up this book if it weren’t $2.50 at the used book store (and the lovely cover art and intriguing title helped, too). I’m not much into non-fiction or mystery, but I have been surprised before!

Oct. 27 – Nov. 2 – Guilty Pleasures – Laurell K. Hamilton

  • I’m always excited for recommendations from friends, and this was the first book my wonderful friend Katrina handed me when I told her about my book challenge idea. Guilty Pleasures is the first in a series of books called “Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter Novels” and revolves around the heroine’s attempts to rid the world of vampires – in a time when vampires are protected by the law. I always love a strong female lead. Apparently there are some strong sexual undercurrents in this novel. To be honest, I was thinking about incorporating one of the Sookie Stackhouse (“True Blood”) novels into this challenge, but Katrina’s recommendation that I give Anita Blake a chance won me over. I’m sure the title give enough of an idea what kind of “smut” to expect.

So there you have it, folks. My carefully prepared list of “Halloween” themed books for the month of October. I hope this gives you enough time to get to the library, find the ebook, hit up the used book store, or find a friend who can loan them out to you! I can’t wait to read these books with you, and start getting into the Halloween spirit!

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The Book Was Better

Okay, usually the book is better… this isn’t a secret. This list would go on forever if I were to list all of them. However, there are a few movies I’ve seen that I LOVED, yet the book was just that much better. Here’s my Top 5. If you’ve seen the movie and liked it, you should try giving these books a shot.

1. Gone With the Wind – Margret Mitchell

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This is my favorite movie. I love everything about it. The story is heart wrenching, the cinematography is beautiful, and the acting is spot on. The book, however, is head-and-shoulders above the movie (which is saying something). Margret Mitchell doesn’t just introduce you to characters, places and history, she draws you in, and makes you feel like YOU are experiencing the Civil War, the Reconstruction and the destruction of the South.

SPOILERS – If you only watch the movie you miss: the fact that Scarlett has a child with each of her husbands; a great deal of the history (the book goes in depth to many historical topics that the book only brushes on); the actual strength of Melanie (who is portrayed in the movie to be a rather weak, but loveable, character).

2. Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling

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Don’t get me wrong – I have greatly enjoyed the Harry Potter movies, but the books are SO MUCH BETTER. These books were my “gateway books” – that is, they showed me how to love to read! While they may seem juvenile, they can be enjoyed by all audiences, and contain a hefty amount of mythological references. If you’ve only seen the movies (and never read the books) you’re missing out on a whole magical world, and characters you will love. Adults: get over your “grown up” attitude, and FINALLY read these books!

SPOILERS – If you only watch the movie you miss: the story of Neville Longbottom; Nearly Headless Nick’s Deathday Party; a lot of Dursley plot line; Dumbledore’s past; and so much more.

3. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkein

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I hate to hate on Peter Jackson (cause his Lord of the Rings adaptation was A+), but I was kind of disappointed in The Hobbit. I really enjoyed the thrill ride (of the first) and am looking forward to the next installment, but the book didn’t need all the changes the film gave it. Again, this might be considered a “children’s book,” but it has a lot to offer adults as well. Anyone who loves the world of Tolkein (LOTR, or the Hobbit or otherwise), should pick up The Hobbit. It’s only just over 300 pages long and can be a quick read!

 SPOILERS If you only watch the movie you miss: … the fact that Jackson created some characters and plot to turn a 300 page book into three movies.

4. The Road – Cormac McCarthy

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This movie is great – and it sticks to the plot line of McCarthy’s book perfectly. But still, the book was better (sorry, Viggo. I still love you!). McCarthy’s words are… breathtaking. It’s like reading poetry. Post-apocalyptic poetry, but poetry all the same. The story is, in general, actually very slow – it’s about a man and his son struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, making their way along the road, trying to get to the coast (essentially because they have nothing better to do). McCarthy’s storytelling, however, tugs on your heartstrings and makes you fall in love with this book.

SPOILERS – If you only watch the movie you miss: not much in plot line, but the stunning storytelling should not be missed.

5. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

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 Listen … the movie is crap (at least the first installment is, the second looks much more promising). I enjoyed it simply because I read the book, so I had more insight into the plot. The problem is, the book takes place mainly in Katniss (the main character)’s head. When she’s thrust into the arena to kill her fellow teenagers (you’re probably extremely confused if you haven’t seen the movie), there’s very little dialogue, and most of the story telling is told through her musings. This is hard to translate into a movie. With the book, however, you get much more insight into the characters and the history of Panem (the post-apocalyptic take on America). Yea, yea, yea – they’re mainstream and ::shudder:: young adult novels (technically), but personally I think they’re more appropriate for an adult audience (if I can get a unit of grown US Marines to read and enjoy them, trust me, they’re good!). I’m looking forward to the second movie, which includes MUCH MORE dialogue, action and drama.

SPOILERS – If you only watched the movie you miss: Madge; a background of Panem and the Games that makes you understand what the hell is actually going on; about 2/3 of the character development for our heroine; most likely the second movie (since the first movie gave you NO encouragement to see the second)

What about you? What movies did you enjoy, but found yourself thinking it paled in comparison to the book?

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Week 4 Book: Darkly Dreaming Dexter

Well friends, we’ve made it through three great books, and we’re moving into our fourth today! In keeping with September’s theme of books made into Movies or TV Shows, we’re going to read our first book that inspired a TV Show – Jeff Lindsay’s Darkly Dreaming Dexter.

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Lindsay’s books, of course, inspired the hit Showtime show “Dexter.” This book comes along at the right time – the TV show airs its last episode – ever – tonight (September 22nd). As a long-time “Dexter” fan (my husband and I have been watching since the first season), I am really sad that the show is ending, but so glad that I have the opportunity to continue my relationship with the anti hero. Darkly Dreaming Dexter is the first in the Dexter series, and introduces us to our favorite serial killer.

Whether you’re a fan of the show or not, I hope you pick up the book and read along with me! I’m looking forward to our first crime fiction novel, and hope you’ll enjoy it, too!

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Sept. 22 – 29th is National Banned Books Week

The American Library Association’s annual “National Banned Books Week” promotes “freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinions even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular, and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those viewpoints to all who wish to read them.”

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Their “National Banned Books Week” seeks to liberate books from intellectual bondage – that is, libraries, schools and media trying to ban them from being read (how terrible a fate!).

I think this is amazing. We live in America, don’t we (for those of you who don’t… sorry)?! We have freedom of speech and freedom of the press and freedom of expression – why are we being told what books we can and cannot read?

I can understand keeping some books out of curriculum (I mean, do our teenagers really need to be reading Fifty Shades of Gray out loud and in class?), but to restrict these books from even entering a school campus – or being available at the library for that matter – seems to be more like a “witch hunt” than promoting safe literacy.

The ALA is asking people to rally behind the freedom to read by promoting National Banned Books Week events in their communities, and spreading the word about unnecessary literary restriction.

Find out more at http://www.ala.org/bbooks/bannedbooksweek

If you’re interested in knowing what books are too scandalous for reading, here’s the 2013 list of banned or challenged books.

http://www.ila.org/BannedBooks/BBW_2012-2013_Shortlist.pdf

Guess what folks?! We’re super rebellious because Ender’s Game is on it!

Viva la (book) revolution!!

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Happy Birthday to “The Hobbit”

Since we’re keeping with a theme of Books made into Movies/TV shows… .

On this day in 1937, J.R.R. Tolkien’s story The Hobbit was published!

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Let’s just take a minute to appreciate 1) the fact that this book is still popular after so long – so popular, in fact, the major motion pictures, which make MILLIONS of dollars, are captivating audiences who’s grandparents weren’t even alive when the book was first published; and 2) that Tolkien created an entire world – Middle Earth – complete with multiple languages, a rich background, and entire civilizations. Tolkien’s books have played a huge role in my love for literature and reading (thanks, Mom, for letting me read and re-read your books)!

So let me just say “Happy Birthday, Middle Earth, and thank you Mr. Tolkien!”

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