Thursday, October 29, 2015

Let's talk about: Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula by Bram Stoker is a book that I try to re-read every October. 
This year I read part of it and listened to the rest on my audible app. I am using a free trial of audible right now and one day I decided to look up Dracula on it to see how much it was (I used my free credit for a different book) and it was FREE! I don't know if that was temporary or not but if you are interested in getting the audio version you might want to go over there and sign up for your free trial and check. (I will talk about Audible more on my personal blog later.)
I really enjoyed listening to it because it had a full cast including Tim Curry and Alan Cumming.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a huge fondness for this book. 
I have always been interested in vampire lore but I didn't read it for the first time until October of 2004. I remember sprinting to our car one night as my husband and I left our apartment to go shopping because it was foggy outside and I had been reading a part of Dracula that involves fog. He thought it was hilarious. And it kind of was. 

"The world seems full of good men- even if there are monsters in it."

Bram is a fantastic writer. This book is timeless. It is scary but not terrifying. It has some violence (what with the vampires and everything) but it is not too gory. It has a lot of substance. It isn't just a horror novel meant to scare you. It is much more than that. 
I love all of the characters in it although sometimes the women seem to be too "perfect" but I think the way the men look at them as these fair, virtuous, innocent beings has a lot to do with the time period it is set in. 
There are a few times when you may feel like the book drags on a bit. I don't feel that way but I have talked to some people that do. He does go into a lot of detail and this is a very well rounded book with a lot of information and a lot going on simultaneously. 
It is told through diary entries and letters written by many of the different characters. It begins with the diary entries of Jonathan Harker as he travels to the castle of Count Dracula because Dracula is a client. Then he goes missing for a while. We switch to Mina Parker and her friend Lucy. 
From there it goes on to other characters as well and then they all become connected. 
 I think you will like it. I think it is a book that everyone should at least try. 
Especially if you like vampires or Gothic novels. It is a classic for a reason. 
In my opinion, it deserves all the hype. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

British Halloween beginnings

Anglophenia posted this new video this week. I think it is great and wanted to share it today!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Halloween is almost here!

I didn't have a chance to make these crackers this year but it is on my list for next year! These look like so much fun. 

(photo from Martha Stewart tutorial)

Check this tutorial out here. 

Here are some more fun Halloween ideas from around the web:

Some fun British themed pumpkin carvings from Buzzfeed-

And some more British costume ideas: 

This family costume idea is awesome. 

The following found on Buzzfeed: 

And some more awesome Polyvore ideas:

 I hope you all will enjoy this last week in our Halloween celebration!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Let's talk about: The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd

I was immediately intrigued when I heard about this book inspired by The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells. It is a re-telling although it is not as much about Dr. Moreau as it is about his sixteen year old daughter Juliet Moreau. 
I was able to get it from the library and read it in only two days. 
That tells you that it was interesting and hard to put down. 

Juliet lives in London. She works in the university as a maid cleaning up the surgical/ med school areas. Her father, in the midst of being called a madman and dealing with scandal, left her and her mom behind and disappeared when she was young and she hasn't seen him since. Her mother died and she has had to take care of herself to keep off the streets. She learns that her father is still alive and travels to the island to find him. 

There is a love triangle in the book that felt very unnecessary until the very end. I liked one of the two boys most from the beginning and that never changed so I felt like her feelings for both boys were slightly out of place. It didn't feel as natural as some of them do. 

I really liked this book and was set to give it a four star review on Goodreads. And then it ended. 
I was completely unsatisfied with the ending. But I found out afterward that it is the first in a trilogy. 
If I had known that going in I would have felt a lot different about the ending... and yet I still think it could have been wrapped up nicely at the end with no further story. 
I will probably pick up the next two books soon, but I don't feel a rush to do it. 

I do recommend the book but go into it knowing that it is not perfect, there are a few parts that made me squirm (in relation to the experiments done on animals), there are some scenes that were a little scary, and the ending does not give you complete closure. Overall a good read though.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Let's talk about: Scariest Doctor Who Episodes

Doctor Who doesn't usually scare me. The villains, to me, are usually more funny, weird, or annoying (I'm looking at you Dalek's). But occasionally there will be an episode that truly scares me. 
In a good way though. I don't like being terrified so these are five of the episodes that had me "deliciously scared". 

Season 1: Episode 9, "The Empty Child" 

This is also the first episode that I absolutely loved. It is probably the episode that I could pinpoint as the moment I realized I was hooked on the show. 
The Doctor and Rose visit London in 1941. Rose goes after a child calling for help and then we are treated to a creepy child in a gas mask constantly asking for his "mummy". 
To this day I cannot see a gas mask without saying, "Mummy? Are you my mummy?"

Season 2: Episode 2, "Tooth and Claw"

The Doctor and Rose arrive in 19th century Scotland and run into Queen Victoria. 
They end up having to try to protect her and themselves from a werewolf and a bunch of assassin monks. 
The werewolf turns out to actually be quite scary looking but they are still able to do the episode family friendly. 

Season 3: Episode 10, "Blink"

"Blink" is a very different episode because the Doctor and his companion, Martha, are hardly in it. The main character in this episode is Sally Sparrow, played by one of my favorites- Carey Mulligan. 
 Sally Sparrow receives a message from the doctor, "Don't blink. Blink and you're dead..."
The doctor and Martha can't help her as they are trapped in 1969 and Sally is in 2007. 
This episode is one of my two favorites of all time. 
 And, in my opinion, the Weeping Angels are the scariest Doctor Who villain. 

Season 4: Episode 8, "Silence in the Library" 
(and the following episode "Forest of the Dead")

The Doctor and Donna arrive in the 51st century to see the greatest library in the universe. 
When they arrive they find it empty. As far as the Doctor can tell, it seems to have been closed for 100 years. A team of archaeologists show up while they are there and one of them, River Song, knows the Doctor although he doesn't know her. They try to find out why the library and the city it is in seem to be empty.
"Count the shadows."

Season 5: "The Time of Angels" 
(and the following episode, "Flesh and Stone")

The Doctor and Amy are taken in the TARDIS to a beach where they meet up with River Song and 
some soldiers and set out to find a Byzantium spaceship that has wrecked. 
The Weeping Angels are back for this episode and that immediately adds it to my list!

There are a few other ones that could easily be added to this list but I will leave it at these five. 
*If you watch Doctor Who, which episodes scared you the most? 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Halloween Costumes: Harry Potter themed

I'm back with some more Halloween costume ideas. 
Today I want to look at Harry Potter ideas. 

I saw some of this group walking around Salt Lake Comic Con FanX and thought they were awesome.

 (picture from Salt Lake Comic Con)

For my daughter to dress up like Hermione for the most recent Comic Con we just had her wear a black dress she already owned, my Gryffindor scarf from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and we picked up some socks for her from Hot Topic. 

Here are some more amazing ideas from LeakyCon: 
(photos found in a Buzzfeed article without links)

A Golden Snitch (hahaha)

The Honeydukes Trolley lady

Fawkes, the Phoenix

Snape, Gilderoy Lockhart, Minerva McGonagall, and little Harry 


Minerva and Mad Eye Moody

Nearly Headless Nick

Hogwarts Express

Fleur Delacour

And some more found around the web: 

Umbridge (from Pop Sugar)

Molly Weasley

Rita Skeeter

Moaning Myrtle

Sirius Black


And an adorable little Dobby (from Costume Works)

Obviously I could go on and on... there are so many options. 
*What are your favorite Harry Potter themed costumes? 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Let's talk about: The Witches

Roald Dahl is one of my daughter Abigail's favorite authors. She has read most of his books at this point and has really liked all of them. 
The Witches is one of her favorite. 
When we saw that there was a movie adaptation, we got it from the library. 
It was a pretty cheesy adaptation but it was decent. 
Abi kept mentioning everything that was changed (I've created a monster! Haha.). She really enjoyed it though and said it was creepy without being too scary. 
Maddy (the 5 year old) however thought it was too scary for her. Especially when the grand high witch was on screen in her real form. 

If you don't know the story- 
It is about a young boy named Luke who has been taken in by his grandma after his parents died. They go to England to stay in a hotel. A group of witches has gathered for their annual convention in the same hotel. They are plotting a way to rid England of all the children. But Luke has been taught how to spot a witch!

Overall, I think it is a fun Halloween movie. But you may have to use your judgement on whether it will scare your kids or not.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Let's talk about: Agatha Christie

Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born on September 15, 1890 in Ashfield, Torquay, Devon. 
Her father was a wealthy American that had been sent to Switzerland for his education. He met her mother, Clara (an English woman) and they were married. 
Agatha said that she had a very happy childhood. She was surrounded by strong and independent women. They spent their time going between their home in Devon, her step-grandmother and aunt's home in Ealing, West London, and parts of Southern Europe where they would go in the winter for vacation. 
She and her siblings were home educated, learning to read, write, and do math as well as being taught music. Agatha learned to play the piano and the mandolin. 
She also, along with her siblings, believed that her mother was psychic. 
Agatha loved reading right from the start. She read as much as she could. 
 "One of the luckiest things that can happen to you in life is, I think, to have a happy childhood."
She also spent a lot of time by herself or with her pets. She didn't have many friends  until she was a little older and stated that it was "one of the highlights of my existence" to be in the youth production of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Yeomen of The Guard with this group of friends. 

Agatha's father was sick a lot. He suffered from a series of heart attacks and died in November of 1901 when he was 55 years old. She was eleven. His death was devastating and she said it marked the end of her childhood. The next year she was sent to receive a formal education at Miss Guyer's Girls School in Torquay. She did not like it and found the disciplined school really hard to get used to. 
A few years later she was sent to Paris where she was educated in three separate places- Mademoiselle Cabernet's, Les Marroniers, and then Miss Dryden's which was a finishing school. 

When she returned to England her mother was ill and they went together to Cairo for the warmer weather. They stayed three months.
Back in Britain she wrote and performed in amateur theatrics, poetry, and music. 
She wrote her first story, The House of Beauty (early version of her later published story The House of Dreams) while she was ill in bed. She continued to write short stories and another novel set in Cairo. 
She was also looking for a husband during this time. She had short relationships with four men and was even engaged to another. But then she met Archibald Christie at a dance. He was born in India and was an army officer. They fell in love quickly. Archie proposed and she accepted. 
World War 1 began and Archie was sent to France to fight. They married on the afternoon of Christmas Eve 1914 at Emmanuel Church in Bristol while he was home on leave. 
Agatha also wanted to be a part of the war effort and joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment. She attended to wounded soldiers at a hospital in Torquay. 
After the war they settled in St. John's Wood in northwest London. 

Agatha was a fan of detective novels and decided to write her own. 
She wrote The Mysterious Affair at Styles featuring Hercule Poirot, a former Belgian police officer with a large twirly moustache. It was rejected by a few publishing companies but then accepted by The Bodley Head if she would change the ending. She did and then signed the contract which she later felt was exploitative. 
During this time she gave birth to her only child, Rosalind, in August 1919. 
Her second novel, The Secret Adversary had a new detective couple, Tommy and Tuppence. It was also published by The Bodley Head and she got 50 pounds for it. She soon followed it up with another Poirot novel and short stories. 
She and her husband left their daughter with her mother and sister in order to travel promoting the British Empire Exhibition. They went to South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii. While in Africa they learned to surf prone and then in Hawaii they surfed standing up. 

A few years later, in 1926, Archie asked Agatha for a divorce. He was in love with Nancy Neele, a friend of someone from their tour. On December 3, 1926 they fought and he left the house to spend the weekend with his mistress. That evening Christie left their home leaving behind a letter for her secretary saying that she was going to Yorkshire. 
Her car was later found at Newlands Corner with her expired driving licence and her clothes. 
The Home Secretary , police, and a newspaper offered a 100 pounds reward to find her. Over a thousand police officers and 15,000 volunteers along with some airplanes searched the area for her. 
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle gave a spiritual medium one of Agatha's gloves to try to find her. 
Her disappearance was featured on the front page of The New York Times. 
She was not found for ten days. 
On December 14, 1926, she was found at the Swan Hydropathic Hotel in Harrogate, Yorkshire. She had registered as Mrs. Teresa Neele from Cape Town. 
Two doctors diagnosed her as suffering amnesia from a depressed state brought on by overwork, her mother's death earlier in the year, and her husband's infidelity. 
Public opinion varied however, thinking that it was a publicity stunt or possibly an attempt to frame her husband for murder. 
She made no reference to it in her autobiography. 

They divorced in 1928 and Archie married Nancy Neele. 
Agatha was given custody of Rosalind and the right to keep the last name Christie for her writing. 
In 1930 she married archaeologist Sir Max Mallowan after meeting him during an archaeological dig. Their marriage was happy they remained married for the rest of her life. 

"An archaeologist is the best husband a woman can have. The older she gets the more interested he is in her."

Agatha continued to travel and write. She used many of the places that she traveled (as well as the area she lived in) for settings for her books. During World War 2 she worked in the pharmacy at University College Hospital in London and acquired a knowledge of poisons that she put to use in her later novels. 
In 1941-1942 she was investigated by the British Intelligence Agency MI5 because they were afraid that she had a spy in their top secret code breaking center Bletchley Park after one of her characters was named Major Bletchley. 
She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1956 New Year Honours for her many literary works and was promoted to Dame Commander three years after her husband was knighted for his archaeological work in 1968. 

"I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing."

In 1971 her health began to suffer though she continued to write. It is believed that she may have begun to suffer from Alzheimer's or dementia. 
She died on January 12, 1976. 

Agatha is best known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections but she also wrote six romances under the name of Mary Westmacott. 

"The best time to plan a book is while you're doing the dishes."

*Do you have a favorite Agatha Christie novel?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Let's Talk About: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Tales of Terror by Robert Louis Stevenson

I think we all know the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Or we think we do. 
I have always been interested in reading it so I picked it up from the library. 
The cover is kind of creepy and confusing which lends to the exact feel of the story. 

The story itself is not long. I was able to read it in one evening and part of the next afternoon. 
It really wasn't what I expected. I always thought that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde were a split personality of a mentally ill man. But that isn't what it is at all. I don't want to give away the whole thing in case you don't know, but I found it very interesting. 
I love the aspect of delving into the different sides of human beings. None of us can be summed up as 'just' kind or creative, mean, lazy, hardworking. We are a sum of many, many parts and I think this book really makes you think about the duality of human beings. The fact that we all have potential for goodness and evil. 
I really wish that I had been able to go into the story not knowing that Jekyll and Hyde were the same person. It would have been so much more shocking at the end if I hadn't known that. But even so, I really enjoyed the story. 

The other tales in the book were good too though none of them were on the same level as this main one. I liked Body Snatchers, especially knowing that it was based on true stories. But I found the end a bit confusing and abrupt. 

I am definitely interested in reading more of Robert Louis Stevenson. 

*Have you read this story or any of his creepy short stories? 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Let's Talk About: The Fades

I wanted to try out the BBC show The Fades as it sounded like it might be appropriate for Halloween. 
As far as I can tell it only had one season back in 2011. 
The Fades is about a teenage boy named Paul. He is haunted by apocalyptic dreams and no one knows what to make of them. Then he begins to see spirits of the dead, called The Fades. They can't be seen by anyone else, nor they can be heard or touched by other people. 
I have heard of a few people that really loved the show so I was glad to finally get it from the library to see what I thought. 
Well, I didn't like it. 
I found it to be really creepy and just a bit too much for me. 
If you really love supernatural type stuff (which I sometimes do) you may enjoy it. But for me, I didn't make it all the way through episode one.  It may get better later but it's just not for me.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Let's talk about: Halloween Costumes: Doctor Who Themed

 It's that time of year! Time to decide on your costume for Halloween. I have been looking at a lot of British related costumes this year and have found so many cute ones! 
Here are some of my favorite Doctor Who themed ideas: 

This 11th doctor idea can be found on Polyvore here.


Or go more simply with just paint and cardboard!

Some more cool ideas that I couldn't find links for: 

Do you have any favorite Doctor Who costumes?