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Archive for the ‘Gothic Lit. Reviews’ Category

Book Review: Dracula by Bram Stoker

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Plot Summary: When Jonathan Harker pays a visit to the castle of Count Dracula, it sets in motion a terrible chain of events that threaten him and those around him.

My Review: One of the best things about this book is that the author makes you feel scared through action and description. It’s like he has a camera that freezes a tense or scary moment in the story and gives you vivid details.

Some lines that demonstrate this are the following: “There was a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive and as she arched her neck she actually licked her lips like an animal, till I could see in the moonlight the moisture shining on the scarlet lips and on the red tongue as it lapped the white sharp teeth.”

Another great thing about this book is Count Dracula himself. Although he is evil, he is a very interesting character that pop culture references barely scratch. He has many strengths and weaknesses that make him formidable. A personal favorite trait is the power to control wolves.

In addition, the book has some good words of wisdom sprinkled here and there.

One phrases states,”I have tried to keep an open mind, and it is not the ordinary things of life that could close it, but the strange things, the extraordinary things, the things that make one doubt if they be mad or sane.”

When it comes to the novel’s faults, one of them is  the sexism toward women. There are quotes such as, “A brave man’s blood is the best thing when a woman is in trouble.” that will touch the nerve of female readers. However, the character of Mina Harker makes up for it somewhat. She is an intelligent, clever, pious, and resilient woman.

Besides this, the author’s writing style can be bothersome until you get used to it. Sometimes, the description can be too much and the third person point of view may disappoint and confuse, even as it adds depth to the plot.

All in all, this was a very good book. I recommend this book to anyone who likes horror stories or classics.

Written by Serena Zola

October 30, 2013 at 7:35 PM

Book Review: Westerdale by Morwenna J Holman

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Acknowledgements: Thanks to Olympia Publishers for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Plot Summary: Vengeance, aggression, malice, spite and family feuds ring out from the pages of this book; its story is set in the wild landscape of the northern moorlands. 

Heaton Grimshaw and his two children, each so different from each other, live through this tale under their father’s gripping and terrifying presence as he reigns supreme over the frightened inhabitants of nearby Scarshead and of the neighbouring family living at the far end of the valley.

His unhappy and vicious marriage spells tragedy, as the demons in his personality are revealed and take hold of his very being.

Source: Olympia Publishers

My Review:  One of the good things about the novel was its slight twist on the classic gothic novel Wuthering Heights. One of the differences between them is that romance doesn’t play a central role Westerdale. Another impressive difference is that the story gradually goes from a tale of intense cruelty to a tale of redemption.

Besides the storyline, the characters were enjoyable. Heaton is physically, emotionally, and sexually abusive. However, the gothic twist in the book made his character entertaining and eventually sympathetic.

Also, the secondary characters made reading the book more bearable when Heaton wasn’t.  For instance, Heaton’s wife Elizabeth has a brave and resilient spirit that was admirable.

Ironically, the influence of Wuthering Heights on the book was also a little overdone. While some of the twists were clever, there should have been more of them. There was one key plot point of the novel that was too predictable.

In addition, Heaton should have been developed more. There are some lines in the book that hinted at Heaton’s past, but it is never explained. It felt like the author was just using those lines to make Heaton more dramatic.

Despite its flaws, it was an engaging read. I recommend this book to any gothic literature fan.

Written by Serena Zola

September 27, 2013 at 3:25 PM

Book Review: Villette by Charlotte Bronte

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Source: Goodreads Version Read: Kindle Edition (Project Gutenberg)

Plot Summary (Taken from Goodreads): Lucy Snowe, the narrator of Villette,flees from an unhappy past in England to begin a new life as a teacher at a French boarding school in the great cosmopolitan capital of Villette. Soon Lucy’s struggle for independence is overshadowed by both her friendship with a worldly English doctor and her feelings for an autocratic schoolmaster. Brontë’s strikingly modern heroine must decide if there is any man in her society with whom she can live and still be free.

My Review: 

One of the best thing about this book is the main character and its secondary characters. The main character, Lucy Snowe, is a heroine worth rooting for.  She’s very wise for her young age and has a resilient, pious, and bold spirit. Collectively, both the main characters and the secondary characters symbolize duality, the good and the bad in people and life. I found it clever how the author used two of the secondary characters to represent each side of duality.

Other aspects of the book that I enjoyed were the romance and the Gothic elements.  Of the two, the romance is what impressed me the most. It was surprising because I expected the protagonist to fall for one character, but she ended up falling for someone else.  Also, it was refreshing how the author made some of the secondary characters fall in love with each other. It was a good way to develop them and show the values of the world around Lucy.  Furthermore, it was nice how the romance that Lucy experiences was shown with sweet gestures and words rather than public displays of affection.

When it comes to the Gothic element, it was very interesting. Not only does it symbolize the duality mentioned earlier, but it also symbolizes Lucy’s and another character’s inner turmoil. It provided a creative character arc for Lucy.

In spite of the book’s amazing features, there were some flaws that kept me from really enjoying it. The biggest flaw was the pacing of the story. It was so slow that I almost stopped reading this book and caring about Lucy! There were moments I was wishing for something bad or shocking to happen so the story would speed up. I also wished that Lucy would stop rambling with her thoughts.

Another thing that made reading the book frustrating was the French. I don’t speak it, nor do I have a French dictionary. Sometimes, I could figure out what one character was saying. Most of the time, I felt confused and that I was missing out on something important. Maybe it is because I read a Project Gutenberg version, but I felt that Lucy should have translated what was being said.

Last but not least, the ending left me a little disappointed.  Instead of being straightforward and honest, it is ambiguous. It felt like the author got tired of writing and forgot about the main character. Although she explains the futures of the other characters fine, she could  have done a better job with Lucy and her love interest.

Overall, the book was almost as good as Jane Eyre. If you liked that book, feel free to give Villette a try.

Written by Serena Zola

August 29, 2013 at 5:59 PM

Book Review: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

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Mr. Lockwood is the new tenant of Thrushcross Grange. Living nearby is the harsh enigmatic landlord Heathcliff in a place known as   Wuthering Heights. While visiting Heathcliff and staying overnight, Mr. Lockwood stumbles upon an old journal that belongs to a woman named Catherine Earnshaw. Later that night, Mr. Lockwood sees Catherine’s ghost begging him, “Let me in! Let me in!” Once Heathcliff finds out, he has an emotional fit of grief. Disturbed yet curious, Mr. Lockwood asks the servant Ms. Dean about Heathcliff’s history and is told a tale of love and vengeance.

One of the best things about this book is the complexity of the main characters Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff. Of the two, Heathcliff is  the most intriguing. He is connected to everything and everyone including Wuthering Heights, the families, the weather, and the novel’s themes. Heathcliff is vindictive, selfish, and cold. Yet, he is also a little forgiving, compassionate, and emotional when it comes to Catherine Earnshaw, the one person he loves and cares about.

With Catherine Earnshaw, she is harder to feel sorry for than Heathcliff. For the most part, she is melodramatic and childish. However, this is only her outward appearance. On the inside, there is a level of introspection that only deep or critical thinkers will notice and understand. These moments are seen when Catherine voices them aloud. Most people remember Catherine for lines like, “My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary.” I do too, but a line that made me finally pity Catherine hit me hard: “I’m wearying to escape into that glorious world, and to always be there: not seeing it dimly through tears and yearning through the walls of an aching heart but really with it, and in it.” It was this line that made me think, “If only Catherine Earnshaw had Jane Eyre’s courage to always speak what was on her heart.”

Another powerful aspect of the book are its themes. Some include vengeance, social class prejudice, and seclusion. The fact that they were shown through actions and not simply told through words made them memorable. My favorite themes are what I call the value of a  person’s status vs the value of a person’s soul. It is these  that form the central argument of the book. Is one worth more than the other? Or, should the two balance each other out?

The last bit of praise is for Emily Bronte’s writing style. Sometimes, certain lines like the ones already mentioned were poetic and beautiful. Other times, they were thoughtful. A line that rings true for the book and real life is, “We do sometimes pity creatures that have none of the feeling for themselves or others.”

Overall, Wuthering Heights is a compelling novel. I recommend it to any gothic literature fan or anyone who’s ever wondered why people turn out the way they do.

Similar Book Reviews:

The Phantom of the Opera

Jane Eyre

Written by Serena Zola

October 19, 2012 at 7:44 PM

Book Review: The Phantom of the Opera

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The Paris Opera House is home to music and strange occurrences. Rumors of an Opera Ghost abound. One night, a young man named Raoul de Comte de Chagny visits singer Christine Daae, his secret love. When he reaches her dressing room, he overhears Christine speaking to an unseen voice. As he starts delving further into the mystery, he is forced to confront a horror beyond his imagination.

One of the best things about this book is the suspense. It is in just about every chapter. When things start to slow down with a character, the Opera Ghost makes a creepy sudden appearance. This made the novel very engaging.

Another great aspect of the novel is the author’s writing style. From time to time, it is absolutely beautiful. It is like reading a line from Shakespeare. A favorite line goes, “Your soul is a beautiful thing child, and I thank you. No emperor ever received such a gift. THE ANGELS WEPT TONIGHT.”

Lastly, the Opera Ghost is one of the most amazing characters ever. He is the perfect embodiment of the mask motif that is throughout the novel. In fact, just the question “Who is the Opera Ghost?” displays that theme. Is he a ghost? Is he a monster? These are insightful questions to think about while reading.

All in all, this book was wonderful. Horror and gothic literature fans will definitely enjoy this book.

Written by Serena Zola

July 23, 2012 at 11:21 AM

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