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?!


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!


Filed under Uncategorized

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.


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)!!!


Filed under Uncategorized

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!


Filed under Uncategorized

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


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


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


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


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


 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?


Filed under Uncategorized

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.


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!


Filed under Uncategorized

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.”


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

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

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

Viva la (book) revolution!!


Filed under Uncategorized

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!


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!”


Filed under Uncategorized

Book Review: The Great Gatsby

Well, I have to be honest – I’m glad I happened to pick this short book for this exceptionally busy week! I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed with the prospect of selling my house, moving across the country, my college courses, and my leadership society induction process that I didn’t make a whole lot of time for reading. That being said, here is this week’s review! Three books down, 49 to go!


F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel The Great Gatsby is a tale of romance, power, corruption and the destructive force of jealousy. The novel is short, but it is packed with strong characters who drive the plot along, and contribute in abundance to the overwhelmingly flighty setting of the Roaring 20s. Nick Carraway, Fitzgerald’s narrator, settles in for a quiet summer in an affluent area of Long Island, but his quiet summer is interrupted by a cast of characters who’s personal dramas set things into disarray. Romantic affairs, abusive relationships, a mysterious neighbor and (dun, dun, DUN) murder fill the East and West Eggs of Long Island.

The most attractive part of Fitzgerald’s novel is not the plot (although that is exciting at times, and frustrating at others) – it is the characterization of every member of the novel’s cast. Carraway seems to be the only “normal” person in the novel, and yet we are exposed to his failings in his romantic entanglements and his judgmental character in the beginning of the novel. Daisy Buchannan is flighty, attractive, and easily controlled, while her counterpart in the “female lead” department, Jordan Baker, is strong, smart and independent. Tom Buchannan is an aging “man’s man,” who tries to use his money and his physical stature to intimidate both men and women to do his bidding. Even secondary characters like the Wilsons are strong in their characterization, both as the blind husband and the proud mistress. The utter silliness of the supporting characters helps set the setting of Gatsby’s parties, and support the underlying theme that money cannot buy happiness.

The most interesting character, of course, is Jay Gatsby. His image is built around his mystery, and it isn’t until halfway through the novel that we even start to understand some truths about this attractive and enigmatic man. Gatsby stands for everything that is “wrong” with the Roaring 20s (at least through the eyes of “civilized people” like the Buchannans – parties, bootlegging, new money and a mysterious persona. His love for Daisy is the reason for everything in the man’s past and present. His desire to impress her is what has brought him to his current station in life (the new millionaire), to the West Egg, and ultimately to his destruction – it is all for and because of Daisy.

Fitzgerald’s novel is chock full of symbolism. From the eyes on the billboard watching, like the eyes of some god, the destructive behavior of the mortals below, to Gatsby’s shirts, which represent his new-found money and obtain Daisy’s approval. While The Great Gatsby may be short, a reader can take a lot away from it if you give it the opportunity.

Now folks, this isn’t my first reading of The Great Gatsby. Much like Gone With the Wind, Fitzgerald’s novel is one I pick up periodically because it is a novel I have always enjoyed. Each reading I find something new to appreciate, some new symbol or social commentary or insight into a character. Most of you probably read this book in high school as required reading, most likely for an American Literature class. I encourage you to pick it up again, as an adult, and see what you missed looking at the novel with the eyes and experience of a 15 year old. I promise you, you’ll understand it a lot more, and appreciate it a lot better, as a more “worldly” adult.

I picked a book I had already read simply because I wanted a good thorough re-read before I watched the movie. My goal for this weekend is to get my hands on the new movie (I’ve already seen – and love – the Robert Redford version).

So – what is your opinion of The Great Gatsby? Do you only have frustrated memories of a forced high school reading? Have you re-read the novel in your adult life? Do you think the story is a love story?


Filed under Uncategorized

Week 3 Reading: The Great Gatsby

In keeping with the Movie/TV Show Theme for September (that is, books that have been adapted into movie or TV shows), this week’s reading will be F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic – The Great Gatsby.

While most of us probably read this book in high school, I thought it was time to revisit it! The movie, staring the fabulous Leonardo DiCaprio (who else could follow in Robert Redford’s footprints?!), just came out on DVD, and I’ve been holding off on watching it so I could finish my re-read.

Now, if you’re wanting to read it, but don’t want to pay a ton of money for it, try visiting the library. If you can’t find it there (it is a popular book, and required reading in most schools), you can find the FREE ebook here

Who doesn’t like free?!

So I hope you’ll read this classic American novel along with me!

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Book Review: Serena

Well it happened again, despite my belief that it wouldn’t. Two books down – 50 to go (in as many weeks). This week’s reading was Ron Rash’s historical fiction novel Serena. In keeping with our monthly theme of books that have been made into Movies/TV Shows, Serena is a movie (starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper), which is set to release this fall!


Wow! What a shocker of a novel! This book was not, in any way, what I expected!! Please be advised that this book review may contain some SPOILERS, but I will do my best to avoid giving away any major plot points that will ruin the shocking ending to this book.

Ron Rash’s novel, Serena, takes place in the late 1920s in the woods of Western North Carolina. The novel is about a wealthy timber family, the Pembertons, who own controlling shares in the Boston Lumber Company. The story has many intricate plot lines, including the daily business of a lumber company, the tension between the company and the US Government, which is seeking to acquisition the property for a national park, and the life of Rebecca Harmond, a young girl pregnant with (and later mother to) Pemberton’s child.

When we first meet Serena Pemberton, her sorted past, un-lady-like demeanor and shrewd business sense drive the plot lines along. While she’s not a particularly likeable character, you find yourself rooting for her, much in the way of the stereotypical anti-heroine. It isn’t until midway through the novel that we begin to wonder about her history, and by the end of the novel, you’re begging for her demise. Her charming disposition covers up a multitude of well-hidden sins. She is able to seduce people into her power, bend them to her will, and then discard of them in the most terrifying of ways.

Rash does a beautiful job telling his story. His characterization makes the novel seem less like a story, and more like a realistic event. As a reader, I felt like I knew the characters – from the power-hungry Pembertons, to the pitiable Rebecca, to the minor workers at the lumber company. The time and attention Rash gives to secondary characters – like the workers – creates the sense of belonging, and helps give an alternative perspective to the story. Sarcastic Ross, philosophical Snipes and religious McIntire all contribute to the feeling of being part of the lumber company – we know these men, and trust their judgments. I had expected the story to be told through the title character’s point of view, and yet we never enter her mind throughout the whole novel. The novel is spent exploring the points of view of everyone she comes into contact with – contributing to various opinions and conflicting ideas about our protagonist (is she a beautiful woman? a witch? the devil herself?).

It’s hard to describe this story and do it justice. Essentially, a whole lot of nothing happens in the first two-thirds of the book. Rash spends his time developing his characters and the plot – so much so that we can identify with them, and understand their actions. It isn’t until we begin to truly comprehend what Serena’s actions are leading to – and we do, even if we choose to ignore it – that we realize how brilliantly Rash has set up his story. He plants seeds of doubt, seeds of distrust – and when the seeds bloom, they run wild.

Serena is beautifully written and captivating – I was left feeling surprised, thrilled and vindicated. Rash hit the ball out of the park with this one. I happen to be a fan of historical fiction, so this book was right up my alley, but if you’re not necessarily a reader of historical fiction, give this one a chance! It has enough intrigue, mystery and action to keep anyone on their toes!


September 14, 2013 · 11:56 am