Book Review: Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J. D. Barker

Name: Dracul
Author:  
Dacre Stoker and J. D. Barker
Number of Pages:
608 (Paperback)
Published:
October 17th 2019 by Black Swan
Genre:  Horror, Gothic

Goodreads

Dracul reveals not only the true origins of Dracula himself, but also of his creator, Bram Stoker . . . and of the elusive, enigmatic woman who connects them.
It is 1868, and a 22-year-old Bram Stoker has locked himself inside an abbey’s tower to face off against a vile and ungodly beast. He is armed with mirrors and crucifixes and holy water and a gun – and is kept company by a bottle of plum brandy. His fervent prayer is that he will survive this one night – a night that will prove to be the longest of his life.
Desperate to leave a record of what he has witnessed, the young man scribbles out the events that brought him to this point – and tells an extraordinary tale of childhood illness, a mysterious nanny, and stories once thought to be fables now proven true.
Inspired by the notes DRACULA’s creator left behind, Dracul is a riveting, heart-stoppingly scary novel of Gothic suspense . . .

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

The tale begins with Bram Stoker locked in a tower room adorned with all manner of defences against darkness. Holy water, mirrors, several crucifixes and white roses. It’s a nightmarish situation and Bram is under threat from something outside, determined to gain access despite Bram’s safeguards. The narrative then switches to Stoker’s childhood as he journals about incidents from his youth. How did all this come about? Who is after Bram and why?

Bram’s journaling recounts the mysterious illness that blighted his life until age 7. His family were convinced he would die, yet he rallied, possibly aided by Nanna Ellen, an enigmatic carer who apparently cures Bram where all other medical intervention has failed, but her help also seems to have a visible effect on her seen through her disappearances, and her changes in appearance as she visibly ages, only to appear again looking fresh-faced and young.
Ellen obviously has a secret, and I don’t think I’ll say more other than experiencing Bram and his sister Matilda discover what’s going on with her – the state of her room, her disappearances, the difficulty Matilda has in capturing her in a portrait – was brilliant. Her eventual departure from the family is surrounded in an enduring mystery that never quite leaves Bram and Matilda.

I like Matilda, and her enduring sibling relationship with Bram. During his childhood illness, his weakened state and the belief that he would not live, Matilda is a constant, telling him stories and gossip and encouraging all manner of mischief, going out into the night and listening to what others think shouldn’t concern her.

The story features unsent letters from Matilda to Ellen, journal entries from both Bram and Thornley Stoker, and notes written by Vambéry. I like this method of story telling, giving the whole picture from a variety of viewpoints and watching it all piece together gradually.

The vampire himself is teased out until the latter stages, although his presence is certainly felt well before he appears and when he does it definitely proves worth the wait.
Our group to take on this menace and his undead are the Stoker siblings and the wonderfully mysterious Arminius Vambéry, a man Thornley Stoker meets through the Hellfire club. He knows the truth about the nature of Ellen and her like, having seen such things before.

There are some really eerie and creepy moments, scenes of horror and scenes of family life played out in all innocence as some unknown adversary takes an interest in the Stoker household. Dark basements, a hospital mortuary, abandoned churchyards and unconsecrated ground, derelict towers, a room adorned with crosses and mirrors, and the secretive and mysterious realm of the Hellfire Club all add to the wonderfully Gothic air of this novel.

The way the past and the present are eventually tied together had me turning the pages long after night had drawn in, which certainly added something to the atmosphere. I couldn’t put it down and would certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a taste of the Gothic. Magic, murder, mystery and intrigue, they’re all within the pages of Dracul.

 

Booking Ahead: April 2020

Booking Ahead is an opportunity to glance through my never-ending TBR list/pile and select a few potential reads for the coming month. If I’m not reading books I love talking about books I’d like to read, so this post is a perfect excuse to do just that.

I don’t actually have any set ideas what I’d like to read next at the moment but I do hope I’ll settle into something good. There’s at least one thing that deserves a mention here though…

Books from the Backlist

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – I’ve finally taken the plunge and decided to try an audiobook. I’ve had this idea in mind for a while now, so when I saw this, narrated by Jim Dale, I thought I’d give it a try. It’s a book I remember I enjoyed reading, but it’s been a few years and I can’t really remember that much about it, so I’m looking forward to this new reading experience.


What are you hoping to read this month? Have you read of my picks, and if so what did you think?
See you again next month for another Booking Ahead.

Book Review: The Colour of Magic (Discworld #1) by Terry Pratchett

Name:  The Colour of Magic (Discworld #1)
Author:  
Terry Pratchett
Number of Pages:
288 (ebook)
Published:
December 26th 2008 by Transworld Publishers
Genre:  Fantasy

Goodreads

The Color of Magic is Terry Pratchett’s maiden voyage through the now-legendary land of Discworld. This is where it all begins — with the tourist Twoflower and his wizard guide, Rincewind.
On a world supported on the back of a giant turtle (sex unknown), a gleeful, explosive, wickedly eccentric expedition sets out. There’s an avaricious but inept wizard, a naive tourist whose luggage moves on hundreds of dear little legs, dragons who only exist if you believe in them, and of course THE EDGE of the planet…

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

My first journey into the Discworld. After much debate I started at the beginning, and I was pleased I did. What better way to be introduced to this strange and fascinating world than in the company of the Disc’s first tourist and a pretty incapable wizard?

Twoflower arrives in Ankh-Morpork, full of enthusiasm and optimism for all the discoveries he’s about to make, with talk of strange things, such as in-sewer-ants, and a magical box that takes pictures. And there’s the other magical box, but more on the Luggage later…
Through various circumstances he meets Rincewind, the wizard who only really knows one spell, and that one has such power that he’s never used it and doesn’t really know what it will do, and off on their adventures they go…

The book contains four parts, which read like four short stories, all delivering some new place or inhabitant of this marvellous world. In the first there’s general chaos which ends in flames, and that pretty much sets the tone for the adventures these two protagonists enjoy (or maybe endure is a better word) together. They go from one peril to another, Rincewind despairing and worrying, Twoflower endlessly fascinated and excited by it all.
And the Luggage is never far behind. How can a magical chest become a central comic feature in a book? Well, it’s made from sapient pearwood – it’s almost alive! Scurrying on hundreds of little legs after it’s owner Twoflower like a faithful canine companion, the Luggage leaps into danger and quite often saves the travellers. I loved each appearance by the Luggage.

I ended up enjoying The Colour of Magic more than I expected. I wondered at one point whether it was a little too fantastical for me, and there’s a lot contained in quite a small book, but by the end I was engrossed in the antics of Rincewind and Twoflower and the precarious situation they found themselves in. There’s a bit of a cliff-hanger ending so when I choose to visit the Discworld again I’ll probably choose The Light Fantastic, just to see how it all resolves.

Book Review: The Other People by C. J. Tudor

Name:  The Other People
Author:  
C. J. Tudor
Number of Pages:
416 (Hardback)
Published:
January 23rd 2020 by Michael Joseph
Genre:  Thriller, Mystery

Goodreads

She sleeps, a pale girl in a white room . . .
Driving home one night, stuck behind a rusty old car, Gabe sees a little girl’s face appear in the rear window.
She mouths one word: ‘Daddy.’
It’s his five-year-old daughter, Izzy.
He never sees her again.
Three years later, Gabe spends his days and nights travelling up and down the motorway, searching for the car that took his daughter, refusing to give up hope, even though most people believe that Izzy is dead.
Fran and her daughter, Alice, also put in a lot of miles on the motorway. Not searching. But running. Trying to keep one step ahead of the people who want to hurt them.
Because Fran knows the truth. She knows what really happened to Gabe’s daughter. She knows who is responsible. And she knows what they will do if they ever catch up with her and Alice . . .

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

Gabe has lost his family. They’re apparently dead, but in the case of his daughter Izzy, Gabe is convinced she has been taken and may still be alive so devotes his existence to trawling motorways in search of the car he believes her saw her in.
Fran and Alice also travel the motorways, running from something. There’s an air of strangeness almost from the very beginning with young Alice and her fear of mirrors and what happens when she looks in the mirror.
Katie works at one of the services that Gabe frequents.
These characters cross paths eventually and seemingly unconnected threads are gradually drawn together…

The opening hints at something strange straight away, an unknown girl, alone, sleeping, surrounded by medical equipment. There’s something eerie about it. Who is she and what has happened to her? I enjoyed the way this narrative ran throughout, suggesting something slightly out of the ordinary alongside the thriller unfolding.

All these lives and more are drawn together in an intriguing tale of grief, revenge, justice and the price to be paid for past events, and the lengths people are willing to go to when faced with great wrongs done to them and their family.
It’s fraught with tension and suspense and watching it unfold, twist after revelation after twist meant I didn’t want to put the book down. I can’t remember the last time I read something as quickly as I did The Other People. It’s a thriller with a slightly creepy, mysterious air. Something perfect embodied by the enigmatic Samaritan. As his name suggests he’s there to help Gabe. Or is he? There’s so much going on in this book and it kept me guessing throughout. I don’t want to say too much more and risk spoiling this for anyone!

The Other People is a great thriller with a slightly fantastical element that I very much enjoyed.
This was my first C. J. Tudor novel and at the end there’s a short intro to her next novel. That brief glimpse has definitely caught my interest, and I also think I’ll try to find time for one of Tudor’s previous novels.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Single-Word Titles

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.  Click on the link for more info and to find out about future topics.

This weeks theme is:  Books With Single-Word Titles


When I first saw this topic I thought it would be tough, then suddenly I had a moment of inspiration and titles came to me.  Apparently I can’t stick to ten titles so I’ve divided this into books I’ve read and titles I’ve yet to read.

Read

Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J. D. Barker – I’m reading this tale of vampires at the moment and it’s so good! Speaking of which, I can’t not give a place on this list to…

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – I really enjoyed the story of Claire and Jamie and I hope to get back into this series. I’ve kept up with the tv show but I’d still like to read the books.

Adrift by Rob Boffard – I haven’t read much sci-fi but this story about a group left stranded on a ship after an attack made me think it’s a genre I should try more often.

Twisted by Steve Cavanagh – This thriller lived up to it’s name, delivering many twists and turns before the truth was revealed.

Sleep by C. L. Taylor – A thriller about a women who goes to work at a hotel on a remote Scottish island and finds anything but peaceful as it turns out there may be a killer in the midst of the guests.

Transcription by Kate Atkinson – The story of Juliet, who is recruited by the Secret Service. I’d never read anything by this author before and I really enjoyed this.

Cell by Stephen King – A strange incident involving mobile phones turns people into zombie-like monsters. This story follows a group of survivors as they try to stay safe.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik – Agnieszka and the Dragon. Remembering this book almost makes me want to give it a re-read!

Yet to read

Tomorrow by Damian Dibben

Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

Misery by Stephen King


So, have you read any of the books that made my list this week?  If so, what did you think of them? See you again next time for another Top Ten Tuesday.

Booking Ahead: March 2020

Booking Ahead is an opportunity to glance through my never-ending TBR list/pile and select a few potential reads for the coming month. If I’m not reading books I love talking about books I’d like to read, so this post is a perfect excuse to do just that.

Welcome to another wander through my TBR pile.
I’ve been enjoying some really good books recently and I’m wondering what I should pick up next. I have this huge pile of books and even more on my e-reader yet I’m not sure what I fancy next.
Here are at least a couple of the books I’m definitely hoping to read over the coming month. Beyond these, well, anything is possible…

New Books

The Guest List by Lucy Foley – An island, a wedding party, a murder mystery. It sounds a little Agatha Christie-ish and I cannot wait to get reading!

Books from the Backlist

Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J. D. Barker – I’m finally reading this having had it on my TBR pile forever. It’s very Gothic and I’m loving it so far. It almost makes me tempted to read Dracula once I’ve finished this, but then I wonder if I should have a change and try something completely different?


What are you hoping to read this month? Have you read of my picks, and if so what did you think?
See you again next month for another Booking Ahead.

Book Review: The Poison Song (The Winnowing Flame #3) by Jen Williams

Name:  The Poison Song (The Winnowing Flame #3)
Author:  
Jen Williams
Number of Pages:
576 (Paperback)
Published:
May 16th 2019 by Headline
Genre:  Fantasy

Goodreads

From Jen Williams, three-time British Fantasy Award finalist, comes the electrifying conclusion to the Winnowing Flame trilogy. Exhilarating epic fantasy for fans of Robin Hobb.
Jump on board a war beast or two with Vintage, Noon and Tor and return to Sarn for the last installment of this epic series where the trio must gather their forces and make a final stand against the invading Jure’lia.

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

What an ending, what a trilogy! The Winnowing Flame trilogy concludes in The Poison Song, the epic final chapter in the saga of Sarn and the ongoing fight against the monstrous Jure’lia. The threat these invaders pose has been faced but not extinguished forever, and so the band of heroes and their war-beasts must pull together one final time to try and save their world from a terrible fate.

The Poison Song is populated with so many great characters, both human and war-beast, and they’re all unique and memorable. There were memories of the past, of the way these characters first met, and you realise how far they’ve come.
I love Vintage. A scholar at heart and utterly fearless and newly bonded with Helcate, one of the war-beasts. Vintage is never one to run from a battle or leave those she loves. I could read a whole trilogy just featuring Vintage and her adventures.
I enjoyed learning of Noon and her past, the extent of her power and the devastating consequences of using it. The revelations about the fell-witches and the origins of the winnowfire they can wield to such devastating effect was fascinating and takes the book in another new direction. There are many as yet undiscovered threads developed throughout the story.
And then there’s Tyranny and Windfall, Aldasair, Bern and Agent Chenlo. So much going on. All the love and heartbreak and life that these characters experience and in the end must fight for made this a great read. Whether love, friendship or family, the bonds between these characters pulled together at first through chance or circumstance have really developed along the way.
And I can’t write this without mentioning at least some of the wonderful war-beasts once more. Helcate, Kirune, Sharrik, and of course Vostok, all play their part in the final battle. I love how each war-beast is such an individual character, and the way they’re all joined as a team but have a special bond with their rider.

And of course, there must be an enemy. We’ll get them out of the way next because the Jure’lia are skin-crawlingly hideous with their black oozing fluid, their intent to varnish the land until there’s nothing left alive, the burrowers and the Spider-mothers, urgh. A fearsome foe and hard to defeat as they’re a massive force all linked together. They work as one, having no understanding of what it is to be an individual.
Under the ruthless and methodical guidance of Hestillion, they have more organised approach to their ambush, and Hestillion will not stop until her plan is complete.

The final battle is long, fierce and thrilling to read as the viewpoints switch between various characters and locations. It’s fought in the sky as the war-beasts take on the threat from the Behemoths, on the ground, with Jure’lia monsters of all shape and description consuming all before them, and each chapter is fraught and tense as that awful feeling crosses your mind – ‘are all my favourite characters going to make it through this, or have they finally met a threat they cannot repel?!’

What more can I say about The Poison Song? It’s the perfect conclusion to a trilogy that I’ve enjoyed from the very beginning. The world, the characters, even the awful Jure’lia enemy, they’re all unforgettable and if you’re looking for a series that delivers love, heartbreak, humour, battle, friendship and everything else in between The Winnowing Flame might be one for you.