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Books I have read, and movies I have watched and what I thought about them.

Fear, death and Dracula

Spoilers included of the new BBC Dracula series that was on at Christmas 2019.

I would have written this sooner, as it has been a week now since the BBC’s Dracula was aired on our TVs and I must say, of all the vampire movies and series I have ever watched, this is the only one which had played into four of my most dreaded fears.

Regarding horror and the realms of fear, I am not known to be a sensitive person, but, like all human beings, I do have some sensitivities which make me fear aspects of life and some scenes in this Dracula did affect me badly in some way or another – though saying that, I would watch it all again. 

One thing of the four must have been so pronoun that I have forgotten it entirely, I just remember at the end of episode three that I knew there were four things I had to list about this series here – I did write it down but it must have been amongst the papers where I spilled orange juice when I had a coughing fit the other day.  (I lost a lot of works in progress that evening and I am upset about that, they were hand written in my sick bed).

One of the scenes which upset me was the “something in your eye” moment with Jonathan Harker and Sister Agatha, where sister Agatha paused in her conversation with Mr Harker long enough for him to remark what was wrong?  She pointed out that there was something in his eye and indeed there was a fly crawling on the eyeball of the eye, which is bad enough but then the next thing that happened was he blinked and looked sideways and the fly found itself behind the back of the eye of Jonathan Harker whom at this point was going through what I can only describe as a “Vampire in Brooklyn” body falling apart and dying, ghoul stage.  He had no idea what was happening to himself, and then he asked Sister Agatha if it had gone?  She gulped and said yes, but it was still behind his eye.

Eye scenes unnerve me a lot, anything to do with eyeballs affect me in horror.  Usually the gouging of them or the stabbing or eating of them, such as the scene found in Mrs Peregrines home for peculiar children – that sort of thing really makes me shudder.

The second and third things which played on my mind a lot in Dracula was the two things which scare me most about death and dying.  Since becoming ill around seven or eight years ago, I often have nightmares and thoughts about death and what may or may not happen during or before death.  One repeated nightmare I have had is that my body is rotting away and literally decomposing whilst I am still conscious and that there is nothing I or anyone else can do about it, then because I have rotten sufficiently enough not to move or talk, people presume I am dead and then bury me, whilst I am still alive and conscious and that this never ceases.  There are scenes in this Dracula where anyone bitten by Dracula is immediately a decomposing animated being forever and ever and that they eventually beg to be killed by him so they that no longer have to suffer rotting consciously as they are.  I had thought that I am a weird person for thinking such things and that not many people have done so, I had wanted to write this as a story, but now I feel like it would come across as copying. 

The third thing is another death fear.  My mother had always tried to talk me into accepting the idea of being cremated when I die because graves cause more pain to the visitors than if I was literally turned into dust and thrown away somewhere.  I had always told her that I fear to be cremated, because what if I wasn’t properly dead?  What if someone got it wrong?  There are neurological conditions out there which can render people in a dead like state but are still in fact perfectly alive – how awful it would be to be woken up by being burned to death in a sealed container where no one can hear you scream?  She always called me silly for that, but this was another scene that Dracula portrayed and it did so incredibly well.  Oh and yes, I still hold firm that a burial is a better option for me, I have discussed this with Paul already as I am convinced I am dying of something or another but I just haven’t been told because if doctors commit to diagnosing me they might have to commit their money to try and save me and I really do believe that some doctors won’t tell patients the truth.  I am to be buried in a lovely place on the outskirts of Rugby town, it is a newly planted forest, a tree is planted for everyone who dies and is buried there, the tree will sit on top of a bio-gradable coffin with me in it and you can choose any native species of tree to have on top of you with a plaque on it – yes, I want to be buried in a haunted forest.  I would like anything that helps the most life of the woodland – an oak I have been told is the best, though I had thought of having a berry tree of some sort, like a rowan and then I thought of the avenging spirit of the elder and birch trees, I can see me becoming someone who would help others find justice if I were to become a ghost.  Protecting victims of the forest, the animals, and children, anyone who might need my help, fiercely, like some mythic forest guardian.

It was such a very good adaption to Dracula though I must say in some places it quite lost the plot.  I liked how they portrayed death as unsexy and how it showed the harsh reality of what death could potentially bring to the unwary or to the ignorant young romanticists.  I did not, however, like how it portrayed Dracula as a greedy, untidy eater.  I am pretty sure that drinking blood as a vampire would be similar to indulging in tomato soup, you do so neatly, you don’t just pick up the bowl and pour it into your mouth without a care of how much dribbles down your chin and clothes, especially when you are as well dressed and polite as he was.  Aristocrats are not slobs, vampires or otherwise!  It does seem to be a thing these days, I know Christopher Lee often dribbled when he played Dracula, but this day and age they act like bloody vultures, literally, they may as well tear the stomach in half of their victims and shove their heads into the cavity for what mess they blooming make.

I always imagined vampires to be discrete and clean creatures, you can’t walk down the street in the middle of the night looking like Carrie fresh from the prom – it isn’t done, especially nightly!

Well that’s my two cents on the matter.

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Readathon challenge August 2019

I am giving myself my own #Readathon challenge.  Between now and the 23rd of August, I hope to have finished 10 books and they are as follows;

Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton

Cabin at the end of the world by Paul Tremblay

Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi

Social butterflies by Michael Sanders & Susannah Hume

Riders by Jilly Cooper

Hanging out with the dream King – Neil Gaiman by Joseph McCabe

On Editing by Helen Bryant

Be your own literary agent by Martin Levin

Fantastic Fashion by Barbara Cox

And…

Mad Love by Paul Dini

I am probably being unrealistic about this challenge because I usually read three book of three hundred pages a week, on a good week and some of these books are beyond the three hundred page limit; Jilly Cooper’s ‘Riders’ alone is 919 pages long, for me that is an entire weeks’ worth of reading!

But the challenge is set and I am going to try my hardest to complete it with flying colours, because I really need to read a lot more than I do.  There is a massive backlog of ‘to read’ books in my Goodreads.com list, approximately ten thousand and it will take me fifty years to get to them all and by then I would have added another fifty thousand no doubt!

I love reading and I don’t do it enough to be honest.  I think online gaming has to end and reading and writing should consume me more than it ever has, because I don’t actually enjoy the gaming and I don’t find it very productive to be honest and I don’t like thinking of myself as unproductive, which is a great irony considering I have been like this for five years – ever since I got much worse with my health.

So this readathon is going to become the start of a new me – a new productive me.  I am determined to change my life.

Come with me on the ride if you like!

Set your own reading challenge or tackle the same books as I am in the same time frame, or decide that you are going to game less and read or write more.  Only you can change your life and make the decision to do productive things!

 

 

 

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A monster calls (a non-review)

Last night I finished a book called “A Monster Calls” by Patrick Ness, I won’t say this is a review per se because it really isn’t – but I would say it is more of a little chat about the characters. 

I felt that this book was a huge tear jerker, it certainly got my eyes watering in parts – as for the monster, well to me the monsters in this book aren’t what you think they are, I think this book has a moral and that is “not everything is as it seems and don’t judge a book by its cover” you will misinterpret at the very beginning who the monster/monsters are, trust me, you will only find out in the ending chapters the truth of who the monster really is.

Because it is a twisty turning fabulous book, I won’t give you any spoilers other than what I have already said. 

Now, about the characters, the main character is a boy named Conor who is going through a huge amount of trauma at the age of thirteen – but I am more interested in mentioning the supposed monster that comes to visit him at 12:07 every night – why skip the main character?  Because he is just a human boy going through a bad time and I am more interested in the fantasy aspect of this book rather than the realism of it.  The so-called monster is nothing more than a big brash ancient yew tree that comes alive like an ent from middle-earth to basically have a chat with the young boy and tell him a few stories.  I loved this about the book because in the past ten years I have thought off and on about writing a novel about a tree that comes to life as well based on the Germanic folklore of the wood wives, the wood wives according to legend are beautiful female spirits of the forest who are also vampiric, basically vampiric faeries who turn into trees and bring trees to life amongst other things;  I am also interested in the yew tree because it is very similar to the avenging birch tree from the short movie “The Birch” which again I believe could have been inspired by the ancient Germanic legend, the wood wives. 

So if avenging wrathful trees are your thing, you know what to look out for.  I got this book from the library but I have bought a copy along with the DVD from Ebay because I just find it absolutely fabulous!  The movie stars Liam Neeson and Sigourney Weaver.

 

 

 

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Marshmallow World Review

One of my most favourite songs for the imagination at Christmastime is “Marshmallow World” lyrics written by Carl Sigman, the music by Peter DeRose and was a hit sung by Bing Crosby in 1949.
It captured me with the descriptions of landscapes of snow being of marshmallows, whipped cream and sugar. I often wonder if that is where Roald Dahl got his inspiration for Willy Wonka from; it isn’t very difficult to see why.
I myself have often seen in my mind similar landscapes for a certain story I love writing. Though I am not too happy about getting that particular story published as to me it is just overly descriptive with no real plot, though I often thought about making a story based around an Easter world.

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Suzy Snowflake review

I love Christmas for more reasons than just the family time, presents and food. I love Christmas for some of the songs and tunes that are available at yuletide.
Songs that feed the imagination of the fantasy writer and artist such as; “Suzy Snowflake” written by Sid Tepper and Roy C Bennett in the 1950s and sung by Rosemary Clooney. Suzy Snowflake is a little snow fairy that beckons children to go out and play in the snow, though the song isn’t exactly about Christmas per se, snow intrinsically is associated with Christmastime. Though some will argue that Suzy Snowflake is nothing more than just a little girl dressed in a snow white gown, there is a video however that shows otherwise. In the video Suzy taps at the windowpanes of little houses with a magical wand that frosts the panes over. In my opinion, that’s not to the ability of a mere mortal child.
I like to think of Suzy Snowflake as being the female counterpart or wife of Jack Frost, another Christmas/Winter hero.
I am aim to write about a Christmas song at least once a week leading up to Christmas, all of them are secular Christmas songs and could be considered food for the imagination.

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The Lovely Bones Review WITH SPOILERS

Spoiler Alert…

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold churns most reader’s stomachs whenever they pick up and read the first page, let alone chapter; it is purely because of the subject matter, a young girl barely in her teens is raped and murdered by her neighbour.  Although I did find the subject matter very difficult, I saw over all of that and continued to give the book a chance.  It is something outside of the genre I would usually read, but as I read on, I realised that actually, this book deserves to be noted as a fantasy novel rather than a crime one which most people assume it to be.

When you overcome the violence and the graphicness of this novel you will come to realise that it is a beautiful story about a young dead girl coming to terms with her own death and trying to let her living family go.  Until she lets them go in her heart, they cannot stop grieving, she is the key to how much they grieve or not – the more she clings onto the living the less likely they are to heal quickly from their loss of her.

This is a lesson that Susie Salmon is learning throughout the entire novel, as well as realising that her little experience of heaven is only the beginning of what is beyond that mysterious door she keeps seeing.  It is a story about Susie’s observations of the living, including the life of her murderer Mr. Harvey and her adventures in the limbo heaven with other murdered victims.  How they are trying to use their imagination to create a world in which they want to be in, whilst dead.

The mysterious door can only be opened to Susie once she decides to move on and try not to think and worry too much about the living, when the door is opened, she can in effect find peace.  Perhaps she gets reincarnated?  Perhaps she goes to true heaven?  Nobody knows, but it would be lovely to think of it in such terms.  That is why I find the book is beautiful.  Forget the violence; forget the sordidness, just read the book to the end.  It is a treasure; it is in my top ten favourites of all time.  It is very touching and there is justice in this book, though it is very obscure and indirect.

 

 

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Games – Civilisation VI

I always loved my PlayStation 1 when I was a teenager and one of the games I loved to play was Civilisation II, I am so excited to discover that Civilisation has since gone through another three generations which I didn’t know about until just now.  2016 has released Civilisation VI, for both PC and Mac, for me it is a must have.

I love games like these.  I wish they would make a newer version of the game Black & White and perhaps EA Games could work on making Sims 4 as good as Sims 3 instead of taking bits out of it like they have.

As well as loving fantasy, horror, writing and art, I am a huge game buff, as you shall see in the future as I mention various new games I play.

 

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Henry’s take on Dr Strange

My son is getting quite excited about a new movie coming out called ‘Dr Strange’ he is a huge Marvel fan.  I was shocked to discover that Benedict Cumberbatch will be taking the lead role, because I would have thought he’d be too busy for it, but also thrilled at the same time, he is a very talented actor.

He is looking forward to the prospect that other characters from Marvel will be having their own movies in the future that would be suitable for his age; he is six years old.  He wants Elektra, Blade and Dr Octopus.

I will say however, he has never seen Elektra or Blade the current movies, but he knows them from his Trump card collection.  He also knows Elektra from DareDevil the movie, which he watched only last week.

 

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Feather Boy

About ten years ago I watched a lovely fantasy series called “Feather Boy” on the television and I was taken by it completely enough to finally read the book; a book I was lucky to find at a charity shop a few weeks ago; such a beautiful tale about a little boy who is bullied and is then asked by his school to do a project at the local care home, where he had to befriend one of the elder residents.
He gets chosen by a lady called Edith Sorrel; this took the boy (called Robert) by surprise as he is the boy that never gets chosen for anything. Little did Robert know at the time that the reason behind Mrs Sorrel’s request for them to work together on the project was because Robert resembled her long dead son, David!
The story starts off like a mysterious ghost story; there is a mild horror element to it for the age range it’s aimed at (9 to 13yrs) and some very mild swearing. However, the gist of the story was that Mrs Sorrel wanted Robert to visit an old house she knew of thirty years ago; a house that is utterly derelict and has a bad history that gives the local children the heebie jeebies. The true story however was less adventurous and in Robert’s mind, disappointing.
The story teaches a lesson, a lesson that it’s easy to make something out of nothing; easy to misunderstand people and have an overactive imagination. The story is written around an old story about a prince who wouldn’t speak and a great firebird. This story is all about rebirth on many levels, it’s quite a spiritual book, very touching and for the first time in my life I have actually cried at an ending I knew would happen.
So, if you love tales about rebirth, revenge, growing up, courage and phoenixes, this book is very much for you.

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Vlad Dracula III

Since the 2nd January I have been slowly reading a history book with a fine comb called “Dracula, Prince of many faces; his life and his times”. I am reading this because I have never sat down at length and read an autobiography of the real legendary hero of Romania outside of short documentaries, articles and mentions in other history books.
So, because a lot of the things I knew about Vlad Dracula before I read this book seem to come from so many other sources, I feel that they are perhaps more accurate than this book. I know you probably think I am wrong to state that because the person who wrote the book was a historian, though I dispute it nonetheless; on the ground that according to my research the Florescu family were well known to be enemies of the Dracula’s and this book was no less written by Radu Florescu, possibly a descendant from those enemies.
I found the historian to be a sympathiser of the Turks and the Ottoman empire despite his apparent heritage; he also doesn’t view Dracula in the same light as other historians and other sources that I have read and he seems to have altered certain facts of major events within his life to make Dracula come across as an unstable tyrant who was unpopular from the start; quite the contrary to the fact. OK, I grant you it is tyrannical to go around killing people in the manner that he did, but by and large he is a much loved hero in Romanian culture, not something a lot of tyrants can proclaim.
So, it makes me wonder, if a lot of Romanians hold Dracula up in a favourable light, whether or not Dracula was as bad as this historian claims he was?
Obviously taking his executions into account they were evil and sadistic, but then again the same could be said for a lot of other cultures in the world at those times. He especially learned his techniques in every manner from the decade or so he was held prisoner and educated by the Turks themselves, so, he is as he was nurtured and the Turks certainly did nurture him ultimately for their own gain. They wanted money, horses, food and a certain amount of young boys integrated into the Ottoman empire to form part of their expanding armies as a sort of security against any Wallachian response and allowed Dracula to govern Wallachia for them, something of which didn’t last long once Vlad Dracula established himself back on his home soil; Dracula rightfully denied the payment and tried to juggle diplomacy between the Turks and the Hungarians for a long time, though eventually it was decided that the Turks were taking too much advantage of their supposed alliance and Dracula dealt with them promptly and harshly as would any other good ruler of the times.
The attack on German immigrants however, is a new thing that I’ve learned about him from this book. Because it is the first I have heard of these events, I cannot dispute it as a legitimate fact.
Many of the things I have learned about Vlad Dracula have made me feel in awe of his cleverness in these very tricky treaties and wars. He was very canny and wasn’t easily duped.
His reactions against the Turks taking possession of his land was by poisoning everything valuable such as wells and damaging his own crops and livestock; he also built dams to mire the edges of the Danube to protect his people from the canon fire from the Turks and then ensuring that his own people moved to safer places away from the invaders leading up to the famous “night of attack” was a very admirable feat, and showed how benevolent he was towards his people despite claims from German sources; He was also incredibly lucky, as six years before this event he was in a war where only 8000 Romanian peasants armed with only pitchforks and scythes, ousted 24000 Turkish professional troops, how he mustered that I have no idea, but to me it shows me how great he actually was, I am very taken by the history of this great and unappreciated man!
I am not taking for granted that things within this book are fact – due to the other sources I’ve learned from. I cannot vouch for whom or where those other sources came from, but I do know one of them was about the legend of Dracula in both media, fiction and fact in one of Jonathan Ross’s specials where a baroness spoke of how great a hero Vlad Dracula actually was and how rightfully offended she was of various inaccuracies and the fact that this great man was turned into a successful horror story.
Some of the events in Draculas life seems more altered in this book than from the other sources too, for example, the incident where he killed a man’s wife and replaced her – from other sources it was said that she didn’t iron his clothes properly and that he was a soldier in Dracula’s army, this book claims he was a normal peasant and his wife got the length of the shirt wrong – so there are some questions about who is right or not.
I have no formal qualifications in anything of which I am saying, but I have read a lot and watched a lot of documentaries over the years about this great prince; I am also an amateur genealogist. I like reading books about wars and royal classes from the 11th to the 17th century and all over the world not just limited to Europe. I read and study these independently to assist me to write such things accurately in any fiction I write, I write a lot containing feudalism generally in many of my fantasy works.
I also educate myself on all kinds of superstitions around the world and so-called heathen beliefs, to again, make my worlds seem more real. I have studied the social sciences to help me further, though I gave up my undergraduate qualification when I found my illness and having a toddler very difficult to juggle with university studies.
By and large I try hard to learn about all things cultural and I think if you are making worlds that aren’t based on Earth or are based on an earlier time on Earth, you need to do the same thing too, otherwise everything will seem unreal to the reader.

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