About Me

Glasgow, United Kingdom
My name is Lynsay, and I've decided to start blogging about the books I've been reading, so that I have reviews that I can look back on about the range of books and genres that I have read. I was very lucky to receive a Sony eReader for my birthday, and since then, I've been reading even more!! I read anything and everything, happy to give any style or genre a try!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Dracula, by Bram Stoker

Finally I've come to read Dracula... the vampire classic that has never been out of print since it was first published in 1897, the flagship book that has spawned countless contributions to vampire lore, up to the present day with the popularity of Twilight and the Vampire Diaries, the age-old story that everyone is familiar with.

Not quite. I settled down to read Dracula, with the thought that I would probably fly through the book, as I felt I know the story so well, but i was very mistaken!! Surprisingly, for a book that is so vivid in people's consciousness, the book is actually a very different tale to the one I though I knew.

The book is set out as a series of letters and journal entries by various characters, detailing what happens throughout the story and how their individual actions end up bringing their stories together and affecting the final outcome. The first character we are introduced to is Jonathan Harker, a solicitor who is travelling to the castle home of Count Dracula of Transylvania, in order to assist him with the legal issues involved with the purchase of real estate in England. At first, everything appears to be in order and Mr Harker and the Count get on amicably, until Mr Harker realizes that he is a prisoner in the castle, causing things to take a dark turn.

While we are slowly being introduced to Count Dracula and his possible dark intentions, the story cuts between Jonathan Harker's narrative and that of Mina Murray, who is Jonathan Harker's fiancée, and her friend Lucy Westenra.The two girls are close friends who correspond frequently, and we get a fair insight into their lives through their letters to each other, and later the diary entries of Mina Murray, after she moves to spend an extended visit with Lucy, who mysteriously starts to waste away.

Another narrative strand is dictated by Dr John Seward, a suitor of Lucy's who is in charge of the local lunatic asylum, which features heavily in his sections of the story. As he becomes more alarmed about Lucy's health, Dr Seward calls for the aid of his trusted mentor, Professor Abraham Van Helsing of Amsterdam. Realizing what is behind Lucy's health issues, the Professor at first attempts to help Lucy without telling anyone of his suspicions, for fear of others disbelief.

At this point, the stage is set... all the characters are in place, we are privy to their innermost thoughts and wishes, and the sense of impending doom has already crept up on us! The sheer level of tension in the book is a masterpiece, as it rises and rises with each page, through hints and implications that are revealed by each character, often before they have managed to piece their own thoughts together and realize what is actually happening. I was always a bit wary of epistolary novels, thinking that there would be too much jumping about and the story would be too fractured, but Bram Stoker weaves each narrative thread together with skill and grace which has to be seen (read?) to be believed. After reading this, I can completely understand why it has remained in print for over 110 years, which is a fantastic achievement for a book which is basically a retelling of a popular folklore. The success of the story is absolutely unbelieveable, and its a success many authors pray that that can emulate today. The basic story has spawned its own genre, and you can see its influence in things as diverse as Sesame Street, through to the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

This book is a solid five stars from me - I'm reluctant to award full marks to anything, but if anything deserves it, this does! A true classic which stands up to repeated re-reads, I plan on buying the annotated version for my next re-read, to get a bit more depth to the story. So switch off Vampire Diaries, and put down the Twilight saga, and go back to basics with the book that started it all. All thoughts, feelings and opinions welcome!!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Mr Peanut, by Adam Ross

According to WWW.dictionary.com, a Mobius strip is 'a continuous, one-sided surface formed by twisting one end of a rectangular strip through 180 degrees about the longitudinal axis of the strip and attaching this end to the other.' This creates a never-ending, twisting strip that on closer inspection, is much more complex that it first appears. This links in to the story of Mr Peanut, by Adam Ross, in several different ways... by being referencing in the book, by having a character known as only as Mobius, and by having a tangled, twisty, hard to follow tale!

Mr Peanut is one of the biggest books of 2010, and after hearing about it frequently, most notably on the Bookrageous podcast, where it has been mentioned in nearly every episode, I was intrigued enough to pick it up, and what a book it turned out to be!

The book has a complex story and structure, jumping between characters and their stories, both in the present time and each character's backstory. The story initially seems to be about Alice and David Pepin, a married couple living in New York. The police are called to investigate the suspicious death of Alice, who has died after eating peanuts, which she has a life-threatening allergy to, but did she eat them or did her husband force them down her throat? That is the question facing the two detectives sent to investigate the case, each of whom have complex marital relations of their own. Ward Hastroll's wife has taken to her bed and not left it for five months, and will not reveal why, despite Detective Hastroll's best efforts to bully, threaten and cajole her. Sam Sheppard was implicated in his wife's murder, years earlier, and the book revisits his tale, trying to solve the mystery of who actually killed Detective Sheppard's wife Marion.

Mr Peanut is a dark look at marriage, after the honeymoon period, when sometimes the person you have pledged your life to is the person that you can't stand the most. David Pepin is working on a novel, which at some stages appears to be the novel that you're actually reading, and its never very clear if he's writing about the way things actually happened, or the way he wishes that they would have happened. He writes about fantasizing of all the different ways his wife could die, with one notable example being Alice choking to death on a peanut... which brings us back to the start. Another thread of the tale involves Mr Pepin hiring a mysterious hit man to kill Alice, known only as Mobius, but then changing his mind and trying to prevent Mobius from completing the job. In another link back to the main story, Mobius the hitman is arrested, and will only talk to Detective Sheppard, constantly questioning him about the circumstances of his late wife Marion's death. This is a re-telling of the real life story of Sam Sheppard, who was convicted and then later acquitted of the Marion Sheppard's murder.

I found the structure of the book fairly complex, the shifts between reality and fiction can take a bit of getting used to, but I really enjoyed the book. Its one of the very few books that i wanted to re-read as soon as I had finished it, which I think says a lot about a story. The narrative thread draws you along, and ratchets up the tension until you can't wait to find out what is going to happen at the end! As you can probably tell from this review, I find this book hard to describe, but I would urge everyone to please give it a try, it may lead you into places you would never expect! I give this book four stars, as I feel this will be a regular re-read for me! If you have read it, (or if you are now planning to), please leave me a comment and tell me your thoughts!!