#895 The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian by Elizabeth KostovaThe Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Paul has told his  daughter some strange stories involving Dracula and a book. One day, Paul goes out, again, in search of something. As the story unfolds, we learn that Paul found a strange book. It was old and had no business being in the library. Paul goes to see his professor, a man named Rossi, to seek an explanation for the book. It’s about vampires alright, the Dracula, or Vlad Tepes, is the central figure in this story. Is he really dead? Are vampires real?

This is the last intellectual session Paul has with his professor because he just up and disappears one night, the professor not Paul. Paul plans to go off to Europe in search of his professor, but meets a woman named Helen. She says she is Rossi’s daughter. Yet more of the story comes out. Rossi had been in Europe and had met a beautiful young woman with a green dragon imprinted on her skin. It’s said the family is descended from Vlad. Rossi has to go on to other adventures in his historian life, leaving his lover alone in Europe.

As Helen and Paul find out more, stranger and stranger things keep happening. A scary librarian starts to tail the couple. They dig through documents. They visit other countries. They get chased down. Something develops between Helen and Paul. The mystery of Dracula is not solved with their trip though and the idea of him still lingers over the family, years later.

What I liked

This was my second attempt to read this book. I started, years ago, before I was ever married, when I was still in college, when I still worked at the nursing home. I tried. I tried valiantly to get into this book, but I never finished it. I carried around my copy, from move to move, until I donated several hundred books to a couple selling books to raise money for an adoption back in 2015. The book just didn’t grab my attention then, which is strange seeing as I’ve been all over some Dan Brown, which is quite similar to this book. I was able to finish the book this time, though; listening to it helped.

I do really like the history in this book. Elizabeth did her research, a lot of it. She got all that weird crap about Dracula correct. He was a warlord. He was considered a hero to an extent. He did impale people. His grave really was empty. He really did build churches. Apparently, he thought God would be cool with him impaling people as long as he made churches in return. While he was a savvy man in the political and war arenas, he was not a nice man.

This book did have that Dan Brown feel to it, which makes it intellectually stimulating.

What I didn’t like

I don’t believe in vampires. I don’t believe Dracula is alive somewhere or that he’s amassing a personal library and stealing scholars to tend to it. While the history surrounding Dracula is absorbing, I feel that a book suggesting Dracula is real, presented in a real-world manner, is a bit much. It’s not my cup of tea.  Really, Dracula is out there, as a vampire, sucking blood, and stuff?

Overall

If you find a strange book at the library, you kind of have to read it.

Weigh In

Could someone ever convince you that Dracula is alive and well?

What do you think about historical thrillers? Yeah or nay?

#890 The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie BuchananThe Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

The three Van Goethem sisters all danced in the ballet, at one point or the other. Antoinette, the oldest, gave up for a variety of reasons, choosing work as a stage extra and washer woman instead of the ballet. Marie wanted nothing more than to succeed. So she tried and tried. Charlotte was cute and wanted to learn.

With their father dead and their mother an alcoholic, sipping absinthe anytime there was a spare breath to take, the girls must all work to pay the rent on their shabby room.

Things go south for Antoinette when she meets a boy who entices her with dinner and drinks. She calls it “being adored.”

Things go north, and south, for Marie when she starts modeling for an artist named Degas. The artist spends hours watching girls practice ballet. He paints the girls. He draws the girls. Marie models for him privately, both clothed and not; her family needs the money. Degas brings her notoriety and admiration, but it does come at a price.

Antoinette’s man gets involved in a murder and she will do anything, anything, to be with him again. Marie has never liked the boyfriend and the murder charge drives a wedge between the two sisters who were once best friends.

What I liked

I like learning about the background events that enabled a certain piece of artwork to be produced. The events that had to come about for that painting, you’re standing in front of at the museum, to be there are fascinating. How was the artwork received by the public? What happened to the artist? What happened to the model? Did the artwork become a detriment to one, or both?

Art is a thing that affects our society. How it came to affect our society is wonderful reading material.

The Van Goethem sisters were real. They aren’t just made up by the author. This account of their lives is fictional, of course. Antoinette really wasn’t connected to a murderer, who was also real and in all the papers.

What I didn’t like

Antoinette is so stupid. Charlotte and the mother are pretty flat character wise.

Let’s get back to Antoinette being stupid. She gave up the ballet for whatever reason, which is stupid decision number one. She got messed up with a loser, which is stupid decision number two. Look, a loser is a loser, is a loser. The point of saying this is to state that losers don’t suddenly become not losers. If a man is good for nothing in the beginning, he’s going to keep being good for nothing. If that’s the case, there is absolutely no point in getting involved with said man. Sure, he may be pretty. Sure, maybe he’s well-endowed. Those are not reasons to put your life in default for a man who isn’t worth a darn.

If a man, or woman, seems like a loser upon your judgement after knowing them for a little while, that’s probably not going to change, so you shouldn’t get involved any more than you already are.

Overall

Paint me like one of your French ballet girls, Monsieur Degas.

Weigh in

What are your opinions about the women in your life who are messed up with losers?

Would you pose naked for a painting?

#889 Perfectly Oblivious by Robin Daniels

Perfectly Oblivious by Robin DanielsPerfectly Oblivious by Robin Daniels

Bianca and Bethany aren’t twins, but a lot of people think they are. The two are less than a year apart. It’s just them and their father. Bianca remembers the day when a cute boy moved in across the street. His name was Cameron, or Cam, as she calls him. With pretenses of practicing basketball, Bianca soon got to know Cam, who called her Bebe.

Bianca is crazy about Cam but has a couple of problems. She doesn’t think he likes her and she also thinks that if she admits someone likes her that it will end badly. She won’t even tell her own sister, Bethany, who is her best friend.

Things are different now, because Cam does like Bianca and wants to tell her, but he doesn’t think she likes him. He thinks he’s been friend-zoned. Bethany soon wriggles the secret out of Cam and they make plans to tell Bianca, big plans, which involve a little dishonesty and some dramatic gestures.

Will it ever be made known that the two actually like each other? Does the universe actually have it out for Bianca and her love life?

What I liked

As teenage romance goes, this was actually one of the better ones I’ve read. Nobody is trying to kill anybody else and nobody is a vampire. It’s about two kids you could have at your school. It’s plausible is what I’m saying.

I identify with Bianca to a degree. I never thought that people liked me. I thought nobody liked me. I thought I was doomed to be alone. There was a large part of this problem which was me. Bianca is in the same boat. There’s nothing wrong with her; she just thinks there is. If you think that nobody likes you and nobody pays attention to you, then you’re not going to pick up on when someone actually likes you. There was more than one boy I kind of dissed or ignored because I thought nobody liked me.

Sometimes, you just have to let people love you despite the many perceived faults that you think you have. I have a boyfriend who loves me even if I’m not super skinny and I do really weird things sometimes, like going around the house saying, “You’ve cat to be kitten me right meow,” or singing, “cat loves food, yeah, yeah, yeah,” when I feed the cats. It’s from a YouTube show called Dragon Ball Z Abridged, look it up.

What I didn’t like

Bianca is identifiable to many young women, but she’s not identifiable to everyone. What about that girl who doesn’t play sports and is on the electric car team? Obviously, you can’t make a character identifiable to everyone. For girls who are in less popular circles in high school, Bianca isn’t going to resonate with them as much.

This book is very sweet and wholesome, for the most part. Despite that fact, I tend to have issues with teenage romance stories, not because of the story itself or the characters in the story, but because of the very idea of teenagers being serious enough to be in a major relationship. Most teenagers are not that serious. They are not that mature. They have no real idea of what loving someone is. Loving someone is respecting that person for who they are, but also being responsible for them to a degree; these two things are very difficult for most teenagers. I do give teenagers who have had to be responsible a little more credit in this area. For example, a teenager who has had to help raise younger siblings or a teenager who has helped take care of a parent or grandparent, will be more responsible and better able to understand the concept of love.

With all that said, I do think Cam respects Bianca, which is certainly a plus because that’s something very difficult for a lot of teenage boys.

Overall

Sweet story to read when you want something a little uplifting.

Weigh In

Looking back on you as a teenager, do you think you would have had the same capacity to love someone that you possess today?

Were you one of those people who thought nobody liked you?

#868 World of the Innocent by Nadine C. Keels

World of the Innocent by Nadine C. KeelsWorld of the Innocent by Nadine C. Keels

One of Joy’s friends tells her that Marcas wants to get to know her better and Joy has to pause for a bit. What does that even mean? Joy is part of a community where she participates in a program for college students. There are performances and the arts are encouraged. She is friends with an older man, Mr. El, Elmer. They play chess together and Joy gets advice about life during the games. She has a mother and a father, but things haven’t really been the same with them.

Joy does take Marcas up on his offer. She doesn’t really know what to do or how to act around a man. The two enjoy each other’s company. They talk about life and admire each other’s talents and work in the community. There isn’t this burning passion between either of them, but something does grow between the two and Joy feels it’s right.

What I liked

This is a romance story, but it’s not sappy. It’s not obsessed or frantic, like so many so-called “romance” stories. There is a difference in being obsessed with somebody and loving somebody for who they are. When you’re that kind of “love obsessed” with someone, you’re afraid to show them who you really are. You’re afraid they’re going to run away screaming if they find out about some perceived flaw on your part. When you love someone for who they are and they return the favor, you’re not scared to show them who you are and you might find yourself opening up to them about things you never thought you’d open up to anyone about. There’s a difference between these two. I think Nadine gets it and she was able to put it in words with this story.

Joy is a little hesitant, but she knows she doesn’t have to hide her fears or her flaws from Marcas. Neither of them mind the other’s past or family situation. It’s purely because Joy is Joy and Marcas is Marcas, not because Joy is pretending to be who she perceives Marcas wants.

I also like that Joy has some hangups about stuff, but Marcas doesn’t push her into anything. Look, if you date a guy and he’s trying to push you into something you’re not ready for, he’s a jerk. What’s the saying, “Love is patient; love is kind…”

What I didn’t like

I can’t really say there’s anything I didn’t like, although, there’s some sad.

Overall

Find that person who appreciates you for who you are.

Weigh In

Have you experienced both loving someone for who they are and love obsessed kind of loves?

If so, which one turned out better?

#863 The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret AtwoodThe Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

Charmaine and Stan live in their car. Stan used to have a job, but he lost it. Charmaine works in a bar. Lots of people don’t have jobs. People live in their cars. Gangs roam the streets rampant and intent on victimizing anybody to make their lives just a little easier.

There’s something going on, an experiment. It’s an experimental community. The community provides jobs and a place to live, the only catch is that every other month you have to go to prison. Husbands and wives are separated. Another couple lives in the house when the first couple is in prison. They’re called alternates.

Life goes ok for a while. Stan works with chickens and Charmaine does something in medication administration. Things start to get a little weird though. A friend had told the couple not to go into the community because it was dangerous. Everything is bugged. People are expected to behave a certain way. Charmaine soon meets the alternate man who lives in her house when she’s not there. The two start an affair, always meeting in abandoned houses, without bugs, or so Charmaine thinks.

This is just the beginning though. It turns out the alternates in Stan and Charmaine’s house are activists and Charmaine and Stan are getting dragged right along with them. Soon the couple is learning about strange sex robots and bran surgery that makes a person imprint on another person. There are sex robots that look like Elvis and they’re a big hit. There’s something even more nefarious going on in the community that involves human beings. Charmaine and Stan are going to play a part in putting a stop to it.

What I liked

I do tend to like most things that Margaret writes and this was no exception, although it’s a little strange. There was definitely humor in this book. Who would think that sex robots that looked like Elvis would be a huge hit? It certainly doesn’t float my boat.

Margaret is looking at a financially depressed society in this book. It’s not now and it may not be ever, but it could be. It’s actually quite plausible. If we had a more significant economic collapse where would people live? It’s very possible that many people would end up out in their cars and on the streets. Is there the potential for humanity to be taken advantage of during this time period? Could humans be placed in facilities to live and work? Yes and yes. If you listen to conspiracy theorists out there, the government has something called FEMA camps, which is where we’re supposedly going to go after we’re rounded up by the government for whatever reason. Is it true? I have no clue.

In this book’s case, the community is run by a private organization, no doubt with backing from various politicians. It’s for profit. There’s nothing magnanimous about this. It’s too good to be true and everyone there should be worried about it.

What I didn’t like

It’s a bit of an awful thing when one part of humanity thinks it can take advantage of another part of humanity for whatever flimsy reasons it gives. In this case, some people were so poor they couldn’t make it on their own, so it’s ok to prey upon them and essentially herd them up like cattle. Not cool.

The thing is, I think there would be some people who would take advantage of others in these situations. Would it be on the nightly news? Maybe not, but I think it would happen.

Overall

If they say they’re going to give you a job and pay your rent, there’s probably a catch so big it could fill Rhode Island.

Weigh In

If you were broke, would you take your chances in a community like the one in this book?

Do you think some people just wait for unfortunate societal circumstances to take advantage of others?