Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Thanks, I'll pass...

I received a suggestion that I periodically share what books I started reading but ended up not completing for one reason or another. I thought about it and I kind of like that idea. Hence this post.

Now, in this case I really wanted to like both of them but just couldn't. Here's why . . .


Frankenstein I have loved, Dracula I have hated.

Actually, perhaps "hate" is an overly emphatic. I can't really hate it because I wanted to like it. Recently I read Frankenstein (linked) and I was surprised by how much it was not at all scary. Rather, I found it to be completely fascinating! I figured if I were that surprised by Frankenstein, there was a chance I'd also like Dracula. Lo and behold, one of the gals from my in-town book club selected it for the month of April and so I found myself with the perfect opportunity to read it.

While Frankenstein didn't scare me at all, Dracula managed to thoroughly creep me out.

In a nutshell, the reason I didn't like it was because it was very dark and evil. Stoker writes of how the evil of the vampire is a demonic evil which invades its victims. The way he describes the undead was just a little too intense for me. I don't like being scared, period. Also, I don't take spiritual warfare issues very lightly and this book is really a battle of good and evil in the truest spiritual sense. On the one hand, that can make for interesting reading (if you can hack it). The spirit world is in full play and the way Stoker describes the invasion and changing of a victim's body just made my blood run a little too cold. I was hopeful to see the book through to the end, but one night I woke up and the shadows on my bedroom window freaked me out and I decided that enough was enough. I really needed to stop reading it and so I did.

I do want to be clear on this one that I don't think this book ought to be avoided, necessarily. Obviously, it being a classic it has stood some test of time and there is a lot of discussion which can be drawn from the way the characters battle against evil. This one I set aside as being too dark for me personally.

One extra note: as a result of reading this one, I was made aware of some themes in the book that some people have drawn away from the book involving sexuality and rape. Tim talks about this in his review (if you are interested). Quite frankly, I don't see that at all. I understand how someone could draw away talk of rape from this book. However,  I also think that if they focus on this theme, their minds are where they shouldn't be because it's sort of hard to draw that out. One of the scenes in the book involves killing a female member of the undead (this was, in fact, the scene which caused me to stop reading) and has prompted discussions of what the author was intending to communicate. I only walked away from that scene with the intensely clear impression that this book describes spiritual warfare and demonic influences and described nothing at all that was sexual.

It really is not an arguable point that Stroker had a skill for writing vividly. In the case of vampires, I can do without.

And as a minor aside, I now really, really, really don't understand the fascination with the Twilight series. Vampires are scary, nasty, horrible things. I wouldn't fancy falling in love with one.

Moving on . . .


I mentioned that I had accepted The Apple Orchard for review. The reason I was drawn to it in the first place can be discerned from the description (in this case, stolen from the publisher's description):

Tess Delaney makes a living restoring stolen treasures to their rightful owners. But Tess’s own history is filled with gaps: a father she never met, a mother who spent more time traveling than with her daughter. So Tess is shocked when she discovers the grandfather she never knew is in a coma. And that she has been named in his will to inherit half of Bella Vista, a hundred-acre apple orchard in the magical Sonoma town called Archangel. The rest is willed to Isabel Johansen. A half sister she’s never heard of. Against the rich landscape of Bella Vista, Tess begins to discover a world filled with the simple pleasures of food and family, of the warm earth beneath her bare feet. From one of America’s most beloved writers, The Apple Orchard is a story of family ties – both old and new – and of the moments that connect our hearts."

Tess' family history also goes back to the German occupation in Denmark and that was the nail in the coffin (OH pardon the Dracula pun!) for my wanting to read it.

I opened the book and began reading and fell in love with Susan Wiggs' style of story telling. She sets the reader up well to be very curious about Tess, her family, and how history ties in to everything. I also liked the characters, one of whom makes the following statement which I noted down:

"[I]f you don't believe memories are worth more than money, then perhaps you've not made the right kind of memories."

True, that!

So why did I opt to quit reading? Simply the fact that it contained scattered bits of mild language. It was mild but it was scattered liberally about enough so that made it difficult for me to ignore. I really don't want to be filling my head with such words. I find that when I do allow myself to read books with foul language in them, those words tend to bubble to the surface in moments of frustration. I don't want that. I think we should learn to express ourselves accurately and beautifully and so I'd rather spend my time with books that encourage me to do just that.

Sadly, I felt compelled to set this one aside. If publishers and editors would see fit to clean up their stories a bit, I sure would enjoy reading them!

In the case of The Apple Orchard I need to thank Etch Communications for allowing me an opportunity to read this one! I do regret to say that I couldn't finish it.


Barbara H. said...

Good to know in both cases. I would have the same problems with each book. It's especially sad in the latter, when an otherwise good and beautifully written book is marred by such language.

Cassandra said...

It's interesting to hear why people drop books. I don't like reading/watching things about the living dead or spiritual warfare. It creeps me out... :( And it's too bad about language in an otherwise acceptable book.

Annette Whipple said...

Hmm. I had just seen The Apple Orchard at my library and intended to borrow it...But I may avoid that since the language was liberally scattered.

Bluerose said...

Thank you for these posts! I was interested in The Apple Orchard, too, but I'll mark it off my list.

I really need to do one of these posts. I was recently reading a book that the language started out decent, but kept getting worse(along with sex scenes). I hate to admit how hard it was to put down, because I otherwise loved it. I really do wish publishers would edit that extra stuff out!

Sky said...

"I now really, really, really don't understand the fascination with the Twilight series. Vampires are scary, nasty, horrible things. I wouldn't fancy falling in love with one."

Yes, Carrie, EXACTLY!!!

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on both of these books.

Susanne said...

Bummer about the Apple Orchard. It sounded so good otherwise, but that would make me take pause too.

Beckie B. said...

Dracula really creeped me out too. I am glad I read it, though I don't count it a favorite. I don't understand the fascination with vampires either. Anyone who thinks vampires are sparkly creatures should read Stoker. Thanks for your thoughts -- I always enjoy reading your blog.

Danielle @ wxroz said...

Aw, that's too bad you didn't like Dracula. I loved it! I'm a person who gets scared easily, but I didn't find it scary at all. It was creepy, but in an interesting and mysterious way. I guess I just don't find vampires frightening in the least, because they're not real. I know many things that are "scary" aren't real - or aren't real depending on your beliefs - but vampires are 100% explained by science. People started believing in vampires due to a complete lack of scientific knowledge about how the body decomposes. And then the stories and legends started flowing to explain the phenomenon people were seeing when they robbed graves. (I apologize if everyone already knows this!) So I guess that's one reason why I could read Dracula without being freaked out.

Although it is a dark story about good vs. evil, I found that the focus was more on the good, on defeating the evil, rather than on the darkness. The parts that talked about the vampire and the crazy guy felt more to me like setting up the mystery, and back story, and not glorifying the evil. And good does triumph in the end, which you would have found out if you'd finished :). Also, the good in Dracula being God and scripture was something that rang true for me. This versus something like Harry Potter in which the focus is on dark magic - which IS real (and scary!), and there is no God to counteract, just the vague notion of "good" magic.

Thank you for noting the complete lack of anything to do with sexuality in Dracula. The back cover of my copy talks about that and it simply is NOT in the story. I honestly don't even know how people are reading that into this book?? It's completely baffling, and irritating.

Sorry this is getting so long, I just thought I would share a different opinion. Although I loved Dracula, I'm actually not coming from the perspective of someone who loves and is into vampires... I'm not, I don't get the whole fascination. I found this book amazing because of the mystery, the way the book unfolded through the journals and letters, the triumph of good over evil, and the characters.

Carrie said...

@Danielle - Oh, I'm glad for your comment! Esp. if it sounds like I didn't like it because I thought evil was triumphing. No, I didn't think that. It was just so very intensely described that since I don't like reading about spiritual warfare it was a hard swallow and creeped me out too much.

I tried to be clear in sharing my thoughts that I didn't think it was a book that was necessarily to be avoided anymore than I think it necessarily ought to be red.

I do agree with you that it IS about good vs. evil - that is clear and easy to see - and I guessed that good would ultimately win. :D I just couldn't read to the end myself. So I set it aside...but not because I thought it was a bad book on its face. And there are plenty who can read it no problems.

Carrie said...

Also I wanted to point out that @Sky who commented above LOVES the book Dracula. (She doesn't like Twilight. ;) Dracula is one of her favorite books!

Danielle @ wxroz said...

Oh, thanks it wasn't clear that Sky was a fan! But, I agree with her and you... Twilight = AWFUL.

It's really interesting our different perspectives because I don't like reading about spiritual warfare, or anything like that, at all! I don't want to hear anything about that topic! I guess when I read Dracula, I just didn't read it like that, so that's why it didn't bother me. But I can understand that if as you read it, that's what you thought of, why you would need to put it down. If that's how I felt as I read it, I would have, too!

I suppose I should mention that I didn't get the sense from your review that you thought Dracula was bad in general, what I got from it was that it was just not a book for you!

Shonya said...

I still think I enjoy your "negative" reviews every bit as much as your glowing reviews. I've never read Dracula and can't say I have a burning desire to either.

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