Friday, October 30, 2015

October Minis: Dracula, Meg Wolitzer, & more!

Hellooooo, readers!  And HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVE!  I will be celebrating this weekend by trick-or-treating with a small monkey and a Ninja Turtle.  Let's honor the holiday with my first round of mini book reviews for the month of October.  Three books to discuss with you today...

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson
Harper, 2011
personal purchase

Here we have a psychological thriller with a unique premise: Christine has suffered a brain injury that erases her memory almost completely every evening when she goes to sleep.  So each morning, she wakes up unaware of where she is, or who is sleeping next to her (poor, forgotten husband).  She has to re-learn her entire life.  Unfortunately, this also means that Christine is easy to manipulate--who can she really trust if she never remembers anyone from day to day?  She finds a journal that she's begun keeping with the help of her doctor, and realizes that her life may be very different than what is being presented to her.

While the suspense and twists in this book are intense (as expected), for me, they were slowed down quite a bit by Christine's journaling style (which is how much of the book is narrated).  For someone who has to furtively write in her journal each night before her husband catches her doing it, she writes in such flowy, painstaking detail.  This felt disingenuous and made it hard for me to find her believable as a character.  However, the story itself is delightfully convoluted and will get your heart rate up (even though I did figure out the "bad guy" a good bit before he/she was actually revealed).

Dracula by Bram Stoker
Grosset & Dunlap, 1897
personal purchase

The most famous vampire story!  I'd been saving this book as a spooky October read for years, and finally got around to it.  It was well-worth the wait, as this was a perfect novel for this time of year.  If you're unfamiliar, Dracula is the tale of how Jonathan & Mina Harker discover, and attempt to take down, the wily vampire Count Dracula, along with their mentor, Van Helsing, and a few brave friends.  There's garlic and wooden stakes and bats and a castle in Transylvania!  How can you go wrong?!?!  The story is told through letters, diary entries, telegrams, and journals written by the main characters.  I loved this format, as it gave the narrative a more modern, fast-paced feel than its publication date would have you expect.  I was a little annoyed by how Mina Harker is treated as a female character (Stoker alternately builds her up as a smart, independent woman, then breaks her down as the male characters keep her out of the loop in order to protect her delicate lady-brain), but otherwise this book was fantastic.  Do yourself a favor and put this one on your Halloween reading list!
(Has anyone seen the film adaptation of this from the early 90s?  From what I can see, it looks like Coppola kind of massacred the plot.  Also, Keanu Reeves?  Srsly?)

The Wife by Meg Wolitzer
Scribner, 2003
personal purchase

This story is told by Joan Castleman, in her mid-60s and wife of the (fictional) famous novelist, Joe Castleman.  It's immediately clear that Joan is a tad bitter about her life these days.  As she flies to Finland with Joe to a ceremony in his honor, she flashes us back to their early days of courtship and marriage.  By the end of this quick 200-ish page read, you have a REALLY good understanding of why Joan is disgruntled.

This was my first Meg Wolitzer novel, and I was beyond pleased.  The writing is fantastic: snappy, beautiful, intelligent, and humorous, all at once.  While the title left me thinking that the purpose of the novel was a character study of Joan-as-wife, I soon realized that Wolitzer was also making some interesting statements about the "wife" role in general: what it symbolizes, its value within a family, and how much some women give of themselves when they take on the title.  There was even a surprising twist at the end.  I'm impressed with everything that Wolitzer was able to pack into such a short book, and I can't wait to read more of her work.

What was your best read of October?

14 comments:

  1. Yay, The Wife! Totally agree that it's a great little book and a wonderful example of Wolitzer's writing. The Interestings is it's opposite, but I loved it, too.

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    1. That one is high on my TBR list. I'm interested to see how it is the opposite of The Wife! Wolitzer definitely seems to have great range.

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  2. I second Shannon...love, loved The Wife! Such a tight, fantastic book. And I agree with you about her making a statement about the role of "the wife". I loved The Interestings as well, but might have loved The Wife even more (I read The Interestings first).

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    1. I need to check that one out soon! I have another of hers on my shelf at home (can't remember the title off the top of my head), but The Interestings gets so many good reviews.

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  3. SO glad you loved The Wife! That book. THAT book.

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    1. Perfect reaction :) So much to say, but the book speaks for itself.

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  4. Now I want to read Before I Go To Sleep, but I hate books that drag on and on with too much detailed writing. Will I hate it? I do love a good mystery/thriller page turner. I never catch on to the twists and turns, I'm always so immersed in the moment of the book.
    Maybe The Wife too......seems it was thumbs up by many.

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    1. I don't think you'll hate the Watson novel, there is a lot of detail but there are also several twists, so it should keep your attention. And I am the same way with twists, I NEVER predict them! And if I do, I know it's not a well-written twist if even I can figure it out beforehand...haha.

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  5. Thanks for the feature of these three books. I will pick up The Wife, and now will try Before I Go to Sleep. I am reluctant to try Dracula though. I am so not into that. Maybe I will have to someday!

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    1. Yeah, if you know you're not going to be into classic horror, it's probably best to avoid! Lots of other books in the sea. :)

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  6. I loved The Wife! It was my first Wolitzer and although I was under impressed by The Interestings, I'm still a fan of her because of The Wife.

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    1. Good to know! Have you read any of her other work as well? It seems those are the two that EVERYONE has read.

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  7. I really liked the format of Dracula too! I'm discovering that epistolary novels are often some of my favorites :) I haven't read anything by Wolitzer yet, but I'm convinced I need to!

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    1. Agreed about the epistolary format. No matter how new or old a novel is, that will almost always draw me in. I think authors are forced to be a little more succinct when they write that way, and it often makes the story move along more rapidly.

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