Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category:

Fixing My Netgalley Feedback-Approval Ratio


Lately, I have been reading with singular purpose. Fixing my Netgalley Feedback-Approval Ratio.

But first a bit of an update.

This summer has really taken it out of me. I have been working full time and I believe working hard. I also took two summer classes that each only lasted one month, so therefore was quite intensive. I had class Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. And of course, I’ve been busy planning my wedding. Something had to give, and unfortunately, that was the blog. But I am still very interested in books (obviously) and in staying connected to the blogging community, so I’m not quite entirely disappearing just yet.

Back to the main story.

So I have so many physical copies of books in my office that are completely unread. It’s really quite pathetic. And there are so many books on my to-be-read list that I could easily pick up and enjoy. And what am I reading these days?

Any book I get approved for on Netgalley.

There are a few reasons for that.

The first is that I got a new Kindle. It’s a Paperwhite and is pretty awesome. I love reading on it and I like carrying that to and from work more than carrying a physical book. Reading books that I am approved to read from Netgalley means I have plenty of books to read on that Kindle.

The other reason for this binge of sorts is because I have a horrible feedback/approval ratio. It’s because when I first started blogging, like way back in March 2013, I discovered Netgalley. I started requesting all the books. Oh, it’s a cover? Great! I’ll request it! It’s got a description that sounds okay. Cool, I’ll request it!

I didn’t quite understand the whole archive date thing, or that there was a ratio that was being tracked. I ended up missing out on even getting to read most of the books I had been approved for. I think my ratio was barely at 20% by the time I started actually realizing what happened.

I’m not proud of this. So last autumn, I started requesting a few books here and there to see if I could start to slowly climb back from the hole I had created for myself. Obviously, I don’t get approved for many books, but those that I do, I make sure I download, read, and review in short order.

So by doing this a little piece meal, and then really focusing on it the past couple of months, I have improved my ratio to 43%. Not fantastic still, but better. I am almost done with more book that I was approved for and have another that I will start right away.

It’s getting almost a little addictive in a way. I can’t wait until I get it to at least the recommended level of 80%. It’s become almost a game in some ways to see if I can do it. I read and review the books just as honestly as I would normally, but I am definitely focusing more on those books than anything else. I wonder when I start getting tired of reading books dictated by when I’m approved to read it. But so far, I’m in this to reach my goal. 😛

What’s your Netgalley ratio? What reading challenge/binge are you on?

pj - michelle

Armchair BEA 2015: $10 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway


armchairbeaI hope everyone has enjoyed Armchair BEA this year! Christina and I certainly did! It was great connecting with you all and it helped take out some of the sting of not being able to go the real thing in NYC. Next year it’s in Chicago, which will actually make it more difficult for us to attend, but we’ll continue hoping that the stars will align!

While the pile of books that I’d love to share with you is quite large, I wanted to make a giveaway that was open internationally and allow you to perhaps preorder some of the pretty books that have been displayed at BEA this year. I know that there was quite the buzz about Truthwitch and Six of Crows this year! There were some others that definitely caught my eye and I look forward to their release dates to explore them more!

So without further ado, here are the details regarding the giveaway!

  • Open from May 30, 2015, ending 12:00am EST June 6, 2015.
  • Enter using the rafflecopter below. All entries are optional.
  • Please no exploiting rafflecopter/entering with different accounts.
  • Prize is a $10 Amazon gift card to be delivered via email.
  • This giveaway is open internationally.

If you have any other questions, definitely let me know.

Thanks again and look forward to continuing to engage you all in bookish love!

Michelle & Christina

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Armchair BEA 2015: Christina on Blogging 101


armchairbeaIt’s Day 3 of Armchair BEA! How has your week been going? Today’s prompt, I have decided to look at blogging 101:

Blogging Q&A

Blogging 101. All kinds of tips and tricks to get you started or keep you going. Talk about ARCs, reviewing in general, web design, etc.  What blogging platform do you use? How do you network? What are some of your favorite web designs?  Or maybe you want to talk about your own blogging journey, and how you got to where you are now. Either way, we want you to share your knowledge with the rest of the community!

 

Let’s start from the top and work our way through the questions:

Talk about ARCs:

  • For me, ARCs are fun to receive the opportunity to review and fun to read. Whether these come through email or book expos, and whether they are free copies for e-readers or physical books – they’re fun! I must say, the first physical ARC book I personally received (The Exchange of Princesses by Chantall Thomas) made me giddy (for lack of better words). I loved having the actual book in hand to review.My advice: Be sure to have an easy-to-find email on your blog for publishers and authors to reach out to you through. Do not take every book that comes in through your inbox or that you find on a table. Be selective and pick the ones on topics that catch your interest. This will allow you to enjoy the reading experience and write a passionate review.

Reviewing in general:

  • Reviewing books should be fun! That is why we do it, right? Enjoy the books you read and find a reviewing style that is right for you. For me, after taking many history classes and writing historical reviews for these, my style has settled into organizing my reviews by: summary of the book; what I liked about the book; why the book was unique; areas that needed improvement in the book; and overall summary of my opinion/rating and the audience I would recommend for the read.

Web design:Dont make me think

  • If you do not own these books yet, go to your local book store or get on Amazon right now and order: Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug and The Elements of Content Strategy by Erin Kissan

    These books will help you optimize your web design, make it user-friendly, and attract others to your blog. There are so many great tips in these two books for setting up a webpage, whether it is for the content on pages, the layout, the font or colors, and other widgets and features…. You need these books. I was introduced to them during my Digital Public History Master’s class and will always keep them close on my book shelf.

What blogging platform do you use?

  • I have grown comfortable with using WordPress. I have explored other sites, but WordPress has an easy-to-use platform with many different layout options. The font and colorings are so easy to change, and the different pages, parent pages and children pages are easy to manipulate. I use WordPress for both of my blogging platforms.

How do you network?

  • Twitter and other social media platforms are a great way to network. Going to libraries, talking with others and events, and just talking about the blog in general with others who may be interested are different ways I network. I still need to design business cards…

What are some of your favorite web designs?

  • I haven’t really thought much about this…

Or maybe you want to talk about your own blogging journey, and how you got to where you are now:

  • My blogging journey began with my Digital Public History class. We had to create a blog we recorded our weekly thoughts on for our readings, and we had to comment on others’ blogs in our class. From there, we had to create a website for the Digital Public History class’ final project… that is how Virginia Wine: History Uncorked (www.vawineuncorked.com) was born. I have grown my blogging from that site by writing about the history of wine in Virginia, visiting different wineries and recording my experiences, and by writing about the history attractions near wineries. About two years ago, shortly after we started are VA Wine and Book Club, Michelle asked me if I wanted to contribute to Playing Jokers with the occasional book blog. I was honored, thrilled, and here I am today loving the book blogging and writing world!

Share your blogs so we can check them out and connect!

pj - christina

Armchair BEA 2015: Michelle and Christina on Social Media


armchairbeaDay 2 of Armchair BEA… The Social Media topic caught our eye. Here is the prompt:

Social Media

How do you use social media to expand your blogging/writing horizons?  Social Media is all about networking and connections, and utilizing today’s technology to the fullest.  Make sure you mention your own social media pages. Do you have another blog, maybe a Tumblr? Have a Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook? Or maybe there’s an underrated social media program that you like.

 

So, how do we use social media to expand our blogging? Michelle and Christina will chime in on a few of our social media outlets and uses:

Michelle

  • On Facebook…  We have a Facebook page for the blog and I’ve been trying to make an effort to post more than just links to the posts here on it. What makes pages on Facebook worth following? When a conversation can spark or become aware of other cool posts out there. I use the Facebook page to share other posts that I think are cool that I’ve seen on my feed. I never know whether to share on my posts on my personal Facebook or not…I don’t want to annoy people but I do want to encourage more people to engage!
  • On Twitter… I’ve been on Twitter for several years now and I feel like I’m still learning the ropes! Definitely follow me @deckfullojokers! I have just started using Tweetdeck to schedule some tweets, but I’m definitely not as sophisticated as Christina when it comes to marketing myself or the blog using Twitter.
  • On Instagram… I’m nothing if not consistent, so I also have an Instagram, @deckfullojokers. I like to share a myriad of pictures, usually book related or nature related…with a healthy serving of selfies #noshame
  • On Blogs… I thought I had these posts auto-populate a Tumblr since the beginning basically, but as I went to check on it…apparently not! Something has glitched! See, Armchair BEA is so helpful!  (Definitely see Christina’s blog, Virginia Wine Uncorked…it’s quite fun and has quite the future!)
  • Anything else to add? I have been very intent on joining YouTube and becoming more of a vlogger, but I keep running into roadblocks. I need a working computer, and some type of tutorial on how to use non-Apple product editing software. What tips do you have for me?

 

Christina

  • On Facebook… Have you seen our Playing Jokers page on Facebook? If you haven’t already, please like us to help spread the word! For my personal Facebook page, I find this to be a great tool to raise awareness about my blog sites and share the latest posts. Whenever I post something new, the first place I share this is on my personal Facebook page to encourage my friends and family to join the conversation.
  • On Twitter… In addition to Michelle’s Twitter @deckfullojokers, I have my own personal Twitter account I utilize whenever I schedule something new for either of my blogs. Follow me: @vawineuncorked.  In addition, I have found hootsuite to be an amazing tool, especially for those busy days when I don’t have access to my phone or a computer due to meetings. Hootsuite is a great tool for multiple social media outlets to pre-schedule posts so you can carry on the conversation throughout the day, even when you are away.
  • On Instagram… I actually do not have an Instagram account. I have found too many social media outlets to be a distraction from my every day enjoyment. It was too much to manage so this is the tool I chose to knock out!
  • On Blogs… In addition to playingjokers.com where I have been contributing for about two years now, I also have a wine blog I started when working on my Masters at George Mason University: vawineuncorked.com. This blog is a fun hobby I have turned into an informative website on the history of Virginia Wine in addition to the blogging feature. Follow my latest posts here in addition to playingjokers.com!In addition to Michelle’s Twitter @deckfullojokers, I have my own personal Twitter account I utilize whenever I schedule something new for either of my blogs. Follow me: @vawineuncorked.  In addition, I have found hootsuite to be an amazing tool, especially for those busy days when I don’t have access to my phone or a computer due to meetings. Hootsuite is a great tool for multiple social media outlets to pre-schedule posts so you can carry on the conversation throughout the day, even when you are away.
  • Anything else to add? Social media, as we all know, is a great tool to connect with others who love the same things as you. I love books and Virginia wine… social media has introduced me to a whole new world of book and wine lovers like me. (Sometimes, people who like both!) Two examples of the power of social media that have personally affected me:  – Facebook is the reason the Virginia Wine and Book Club got started. I posted on a friend’s wall about how fun it would be to have a reason to get together over wine by discussing books. Michelle saw this post and suggested we check out Goodreads… from there, others chimed in and here we are over two years and 27 books later!  – Twitter helped to connect me with others in the wine community. I ended up taking the George Mason Business of Wine class for fun. I’ve discovered new wineries in the community. And I was also invited to be a guest speaker on VinVillageRadio through Twitter. It really is a great tool to expand one’s knowledge, interests, understanding and networking circles!

Share your favorites and personal social media outlets with us. We would love to connect with you!

Armchair BEA 2015: Christina on Library Love


armchairbeaSo excited for Armchair BEA to begin!  You’ve seen Michelle’s introductory post. Now I want to share my #LibraryLove for the local public library near my community! First, the prompt:

Library Love

Librarians are awesome. Not only are they helpful, they’re very fun to talk to and give great recommendations. Show your library some love, and the wonderful men and women that run it. Why is your library fantastic? Got any funny stories? Feature your library on your blog? Do an interview with a librarian?

So why is my library fantastic? I wanted to highlight Pohick Library in Fairfax, VA first:

  • I can walk there it is so close
  • They always have books for sale in the front of the library (I stalk these shelves constantly)
  • They have awesome 3-day large book sales on select weekends throughout the year that I ALWAYS find at least a few of the books on my to-own list (plus they have the $5 bag day on Sunday… time to stalk up on new reads that grab my attention too!)book sale
  • The librarians are always super helpful when I am looking for books… always friendly, both the staff and volunteers!

Why are libraries in general fantastic?

  • They always get the new titles in, and a lot of copies to make the holds list go quickly
  • I’m in a book club… one book a month for the club adds up, especially next to my other books on my to-read for-fun list. Libraries give me the chance to read these books without having to spend the money
  • See a book, but don’t know if you’ll like it? Borrow it from the library and return it if it’s not your style!
  • Online e-books. My Kindle and the free online e-books I can borrow from my local library while sitting at home have changed my life
  • They offer great study spaces and quiet rooms for those looking for an escape or location to do research without the distractions (although, the books are a great distraction to me…)
  • As a Masters student in U.S. History, I needed to do A LOT of research for my papers and find the latest texts on certain topics, in addition to some of the original works. Libraries made this SO EASY… not just the school library, but the local public libraries in Fairfax County. My research excelled thanks to the variety of books the public libraries offered

One more library I wanted to highlight was the Library of Virginia in Richmond, VA:

  • When I was working on my Master’s thesis on Freedom Suites in Virginia, the Library of Virginia contained the original documents I needed. Some of the works were transcribed or scanned online through the library’s website. Others were available for free in the archives there… I got to handle the original documents from the 1700s. It was AMAZING
  • The Library of Virginia also acts as a museum featuring documents, exhibits, and preserving history for others to see

I could go on, but I will stop there with why libraries are so fantastic. Have you been to your local library lately? Michelle  visits Pohick Library as well and snapped these great photos of Santa looking for an audio book and the view from where she was sitting. Enjoy!

Santa:

A photo posted by Michelle (@deckfullojokers) on

View:

A photo posted by Michelle (@deckfullojokers) on

pj - christina

Armchair BEA 2015: Introduction to Michelle


armchairbeaArmchair BEA 2015: Introduction

Another year, another Armchair BEA! Another year that I am unable to attend the Expo in person, but will gladly still participate with everyone in the fun that is Armchair BEA! I feel like this year the majority of my posts have actually been introduction posts as I haven’t exactly been the best blogger in the world, but for those who I am meeting for the first time, here’s some information on me!

I have been blogging for just over two years! I am from Northern Virginia and love my state. My current dream is to leave the major metropolitan area of Washington, D.C. and go to a more rural area of Virginia and experiment with a more sustainable lifestyle (like growing some of our own food, using renewable resources, etc.).

I got into blogging because I was bored after my undergraduate program and would come home from work with little to do. I wanted a hobby and was already doing a lot of reading and reviewing. I had actually started reviewing books in 2010 on Goodreads. After a particularly large book haul from LibraryThing and Goodreads one month, I decided to copy Steph Gorelenore at Cover2CoverBlog, who I had been stalking and had been my introduction to the book blogging community and start my own blog.

I have enjoyed reading for basically my entire life. It’s not the actual reading that I necessarily enjoy, it’s the entire experience. I love stories, whether it’s a history class, a book, a television show, or audiobook. A good story lingers with you and can get you just as excited in remembering it as it did when you first read it. Blogging I have a bit more of a complicated relationship with. I’m not longer just coming home from work with nothing to do…I’m going to graduate school part-time, trying to plan a wedding, workout…basically time is always limited and blogging often gets neglected. But when I do get the chance to devote time to it, I enjoy the project of it. Whether it’s planning posts, scheduling things, researching books, websites, publishers, bloggers, figuring out how to market and design…I enjoy these things when I get the opportunity to do so.

I’m not sure I have a theme song. I’ll admit that for the past week I’ve been obsessed with Taylor Swift’s Bad Blood, but who isn’t? I wouldn’t necessarily call that a theme song though…perhaps it’s better to say that any epic soundtrack music is my theme song. I listen to that music all the time.

Diversity to me means differences on all levels. I don’t necessarily believe that diversity should only be considered on the gender, sex, race, or age of the author, but also of its characters, plot, and creativity. It brings to mind the drama involving those in the internet community who rigged the Hugo Award nominations because of their belief that science fiction should only be a certain type of space or science drama. I think when we believe that authors, characters, genres, stories should be of one type even unintentionally, we severely limit creativity and number of new stories we could enjoy.

I’m not good at universal book recommendations, but the book I seem to recommending a lot lately is The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. I really enjoyed that book and plan on reading the rest in the series. It’s a good fantasy with pirates…I feel like you can’t go wrong with recommending that book.

I just went through my posts for the past year and I think my favorite post is the one about the “Just in Case Book Habit.” I would say that it is still true that I will carry a book with me most places, just on the off-chance that I will need it.

Part of the whole reason I have such a weird name for a book blog is that I don’t necessarily have a favorite genre. I will enjoy nonfiction as much as fiction sometimes and fantasy and science fiction as much as historical fiction. The list of genres I don’t like are shorter than those I do enjoy.

I am currently reading Uprooted by Naomi Novik. I had a hard time understanding the world at first but now that I do, I am hooked. It’s a book that I am completely sad that I have to go to work and put the book down for. I’m really curious to see how I will feel about it once I have finished it. I’m only a little less than halfway through right now.

After finishing Uprooted, I will be reading Days Like This by Danielle Ellison. I really enjoyed Salt by her, and as she is a local author and friend, I am definitely excited to dive into this one next!

I actually just did a Top Ten Tuesday on my summer TBR, but I think more than just these books, I’m also interested in reading The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black. The title makes me think of Uprooted right now, but I could always do with more Holly Black in my life.

Beyond the survival books and their authors I would want to bring with me while stranded on a deserted island, I would probably want to bring…maybe George R.R. Martin so he can finish A Song of Ice and Fire?

Looking forward to meeting you all!

pj - michelle

 

Michelle’s Computer Woes and Vlogging Complications


For over a year now I have been flirting with the idea of becoming a vlogger and even once uploaded videos that I have since deleted out of shame, but you may have noticed that there has been no real progressed made on that front.

What’s my hang-up?

It once again comes down to editing software…but perhaps in a different way than you might expect.

I was tagged a while ago by Steph from Cover2CoverBlog to do the Taylor Swift tag. I wanted to do it in video format because I had watched a few and I figured a tag video would be a good place to start experimenting with some of the intricacies of filming and editing. I had an entire shoot of me doing it and then went to download the video editing software that had been recommended to me from someone on Twitter.

And that’s when it went all wrong.

I went to CNET to download it and clicked download. Little did I know at the time that I was clicking on sneaky little ad instead of the real download button. I thought I was still downloading from CNET, despite all the warnings from my computer that perhaps the file couldn’t be trusted. Very stupid, I know now.

It didn’t take long before I realized that I had not downloaded the editing software, but some really strange program. I panicked. I went to remove the software and tried restoring my computer’s settings to a previous date.

I thought it turned out okay but my computer began to progressively act strange until it got to the point that I couldn’t use Chrome whatsoever without random pages popping up and a Chrome plugin refusing to be deleted for good. I quickly bought and used virus protection software (again, hindsight is 20/20…should I have had that before, yes. Did I think I was going to have all this happen, no. Lesson learned). I performed lots of advanced scans on my computer and the virus protection software didn’t seem to identify any viruses. And yet the issues persisted.

My fiance performed a better search of the computer and discovered that I had something called root virus, or a rootkit. It hides as if it’s part of the computer’s operating system, giving it privileged access and preventing it from being removed. One way to quickly tell if you have one: If you go to the add/remove programs part of your control panel (speaking PCs here), if you have programs that have “” or ** as the totality of its Publisher name, it’s likely a root virus. Try removing it. If it says you need administrator privileges to do so (and you’re clearly the administrator of your own PC) then it is most definitely one.

It seems to me that these viruses grow and replicate and basically take up even more space. There are rootkit removers, but so far we haven’t had much luck actually removing them.

Not having a reliable, working computer is sort of an issue when you want to be an active blogger and an experimental vlogger. I am still unsure that even if I had the right editing software that I would know how to use it. It’s pretty confusing and not very beginner-friendly. Almost everyone recommends iMovie, which doesn’t do me a whole lot of good with just having PCs. I’m still totally open to any suggestions for editing software because I really don’t want to just upload a long and rambling video of me without some jump cuts at the very least.

My lessons learned thus far:

  • Have virus protection software.
  • Use an adblocker.
  • Listen to when your computer tries warning you about downloading a program.

Oops.

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Thoughts: Rediscovering Audiobooks


I was going to write about the various stresses of this time of the year, with two major term papers due in just a week and a half. But I figured you all have pretty much heard enough of that by now. :) But one of the things that I’ve rediscovered this week: audiobooks.

I feel like every time I listen to an audiobook, I wonder why I didn’t listen to them to more often. Audiobooks:

  • Are easy to fit in with a busy schedule. I can listen on my commute, even when I’m driving and not taking the train.
  • Technology has advanced! Audible has improved sooo much since the last time I used it, and it’s become easier to pick it up and pause on multiple devices.
  • Are relaxing. Although this can also be a con because I become very sleepy after a while…
  • Allow for the story to be experienced in a very different way.

audibleIn case you didn’t read Christina’s review of The Alchemist, it is our April book pick for our VA Wine and Book Club. I have done a pretty bad job of reading the books for the club lately. Part of it stems from my lack of interest in the specific books, but also because I’m reading so much slower these days. I can’t seem to finish my pleasure read in time to pick up the club book.

My solution for this month? I re-signed up for Audible, taking advantage of their free credit for their trial. The last time I had a subscription to Audible two years ago, I had to download their audiobook manager to play the books and download each book. But now?

I can stream the book from my browser. I can use their free app (but still have to download the book) to have the audiobook play through my phone, and then thanks to Bluetooth, through my car. Each syncs so well that where I leave off of my computer, my phone picks up.

It’s making it so easy for me so I think it’s safe to say that I will actually be able to discuss the book at the club’s meeting this Sunday!

pj - michelle

Playing Jokers is Two Years Old!


Can you believe it? I barely can.

Two years ago, I was bored with only having work and no school (oh those were the days!) and I wanted something to do in my free time. And so I embarked on this journey that has led to so many opportunities. In particular, I’d like to think that this year I have made closer connections to others in this reading and blogging community than I made the year before. I feel like I have real friends in this community now and it’s wonderful.

This year brought us a new layout, a new co-blogger, and a new contributor! I started graduate school and dealt with some reading slumps. I craved a good series and discussed how I always bring a book with me.

I got to moderate two panels at the Northern Virginia Teen Book Festival and meet with some lovely authors, like Marie Rutkowski and Kristen Simmons.

A photo posted by Michelle (@deckfullojokers) on

And what’s been the best is all the comments and  conversations across the blog and the web.

So to celebrate, I’m hosting giveaways across all platforms throughout the week!

The first one went up last night on Instagram…check it out below:

So the next one is obviously the one for this right here, the blog! (Twitter and Facebook will each have their own as well!)

Giveaway

So for the blog-proper giveaway, one follower can win:

IMG_20150317_111715

The Roving Party by Rohan Wilson
The Twistrose Key (ARC) by Tone Almhjell
Randi Rhodes Ninja Detective Book 1: The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit (ARC) by Octavia Spencer
A Wounded Name (AudioCDs) by Dot Hutchison
The Red Dragon (AudioCDs) by L. Ron Hubbard

To enter, please follow Playing Jokers (the blog) on Bloglovin’, Networked Blogs, or by email (or any other format I’m not currently aware of) and comment below with which platform you follow on. This giveaway is open to the US only and ends on Tuesday, March 24 at 11:59pm.

Good luck and most importantly, thank you.

Michelle, Christina, Ellen, and Calvert

Christina on Dracula by Bram Stoker


Christina on Dracula by Bram StokerDracula by Bram Stoker
Published by J S Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction
Pages: 338
Format: Paperback
four-stars
EDITORIAL REVIEW: *Dracula*, by **Bram Stoker**, is part of the *Barnes & Noble Classics** *series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of *Barnes & Noble Classics*: New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars Biographies of the authors Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events Footnotes and endnotes Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work Comments by other famous authors Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations Bibliographies for further reading Indices & Glossaries, when appropriateAll editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. *Barnes & Noble Classics *pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works. ** *Count Dracula* has inspired countless movies, books, and plays. But few, if any, have been fully faithful to **Bram Stoker**'s original, best-selling novel of mystery and horror, love and death, sin and redemption. *Dracula* chronicles the vampire's journey from Transylvania to the nighttime streets of London. There, he searches for the blood of strong men and beautiful women while his enemies plot to rid the world of his frightful power. Today's critics see *Dracula* as a virtual textbook on Victorian repression of the erotic and fear of female sexuality. In it, Stoker created a new word for terror, a new myth to feed our nightmares, and a character who will outlive us all. **Brooke Allen****** is a book critic whose work has appeared in numerous publications including The Atlantic Monthly, The New Criterion, The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, and The Hudson Review. A collection of her essays, *Twentieth-Century Attitudes*, will be published in 2003.

The classic book Dracula has been on my to-read shelf for forever. I finally came across the book at a book sale in Fairfax County Public Libraries and read it this year… what an eye opener it was! Compared to Hollywood portrayals, I clearly did not know the whole story of Count Dracula.

To begin for those of you unfamiliar with the book and tale, Bran Stoker presented the story through a composition of letters, memoirs, telegrams and similar communications. His main characters he tells the story through are: Jonathan Harker, Mina Murray, Lucy Westenra, Dr Seward and Van Helsing. The tale begins with Jonathan Harker off to visit the Count on business in Transylvania. From there, the story progresses to the tale of Dracula some are familiar with: he travels to London, targets individuals in the town to give them the fateful bite on their necks, and has certain weaknesses such as the cross, garlic and other items. While Dracula’s presence affects the characters in Stoker’s story, they plot to banish him from London and destroy him once and for all.

Now, some may ask why Hollywood portrayals made the story different from what I expected?

  1. I did not know the book was written through a series of first-hand perspectives (letters, memoirs, etc) That was new and limiting to the story interpreted by others.
  2. I always thought there was something more sensual… more sexy about Dracula. I did not get that feeling reading the story. Instead, I felt the creep and danger in his character.
  3. His image when I first met Dracula in the book is FAR from the way Hollywood portrays Dracula… Stoker described him as:

a toll old man, clean shaven save for a long white moustache, and clad in black from head to foot, without a single speck of colour about him anywhere.”  (20)

HOLD UP… a WHITE MUSTACHE?! And he was OLD?!

Now, I understand Dracula does appear younger when he arrives in London. But seriously… a white mustache?  Later, when Dracula is in London, he was described as:

“a tall, thin man, with a beaky nose and black moustache and pointed beard…” (186)

Now that is more like it. Yes… he got younger, this description is one many of us our more familiar with. One of my FAVORITE TV series was NBC’s “Dracula” with Jonathan Rhys Myer. This description of the beard and mustache fit his character much better here. But see what I mean on some of the other favorite Dracula’s from the past?

Dracula 1

Jonathan Rhys Myer – NBC Dracula – Image from www.facebook.com/draculaatnbc

Dracula 2

Bela Lugosi – Dracula (1931) – Image from Wikipedia and in public domain

Dracula 3

Christopher Lee – Dracula (1958) – Image from Wikipedia and in public domain

Besides appearances (and praise to NBC’s portrayal from me… but shame on them for canceling my favorite series) … let’s face it: Dracula is still a terrifying concept. After years of watching Dracula movies and TV shows, dressing as a vampire for Halloween, and especially this whole vampire craze in literature and movies today, I am so glad I finally had the opportunity to read Bram Stoker’s classic.

As you can guess, I highly recommend this book simply because it is a classic and the writing style is unique. Pair with a glass of red wine (my choice: a Norton). Take it in and don’t forget to surround yourself with garlic before you sleep, and do not welcome in strangers. Oh yeah, and if you look in the mirror next to a friend and do not see their reflection next to yours… run.

pj - christina