Tag Archives: Bram Stoker

The Taker, a slow turning screw

Thursday’s Bite

a paranormal blog book review

the taker by alma katsuOne of the free books at RWA Nationals was The Taker, by Alma Katsu. Given the fantastic cover you can see why I had to read it first. But it wasn’t what I expected.

The cover, the blurb, it all said paranormal romance. Or maybe urban fantasy with romance being a central theme, but after starting it I knew, this wasn’t a romance. Or at least, it shouldn’t be billed as one. There is a romance throughout, but there is no happy ending. And I pretty much knew there wouldn’t be a happy ever after right from the begining. Rather than saying it’s a romance, I’d say it’s a gothic in the tradition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. And since I’m a Dracula fan, I found the book fascinating.

The Taker jumps from modern day scenes to scenes over two hundred years  in the past, and further back than that. It tells the story of Lanore, a star-crossed lover who desires only one man, and whose intense pre-occupation with achieving her desire leads both of them into a life of eternal debauchery.

Is there a romance?

I don’t think so. Is it romantic to have one person so obsessed by the other that she is willing to do anything to preserve their love? What if her love isn’t returned? To me, romance requires love on both sides, and while Lanore may be deluded into thinking that there is love on Jonathan’s side, he only comes across as selfish and callow.

But despite that, I found myself unable to put the book down. It drew me in with that slow build that a traditional Gothic has. Not a Gothic romance, but a true Gothic, set in a house of horrors with the dark master and the mystic feel. There is a slow build of feeling that something horrible is going to happen, even after the worst has occurred.

One of the very interesting things is how Katsu works in Dracula, without referencing the book, the characters, or even the time period. Katsu uses just enough common themes from the Dracula legend for the reader to know that she means Dracula. The story references a similar area of Europe, there are  scared villagers, and the scary man in the castle. All of these plus the pacing and long drawn out story bring Bram Stoker’s work to mind.

Would I recommend The Taker?

That depends what you are looking for. I love Victorian Gothics. Old horror. Edgar Allen Poe. I also love the slow pacing and implied action that characterize these books. If you love traditional stories of the supernatural, are not looking for romance, and want a very well written book. Then yes, I’d say read The Taker. My only complaint was that I felt the end was less than satisfying. I wanted the  screw to turn and twist. But maybe that’s in the second book.

Do you read Victorian books? What about Gothic romances of any type? Do you love the slow build of The Turn of the Screw? What is your favorite book over one hundred years old?


Filed under Book Trailers, Paranormal Book Review, Thursdays Bite

Falling in Love with Vampires Before Twilight

Thursday’s Bite

a paranormal blog

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I first discovered vampires through my mother. My mother is a voracious reader. I can remember trying to get her attention as a child as she sat in her rocking chair reading. Unless there was blood or advanced screaming, she didn’t look up. By the time I had hit my teens I had cruised through a great many of her sci-fi books. Around age fifteen I came across a fascinating book, The Dracula Tape, by Fred Saberhagen.

Dracula re-telling his version of the story? Cool.

But Mom said no. I couldn’t read it. What the…?

She said it would be better if I read Dracula first. And Mom was usually right, when it came to books. So I kept looking at Dracula. I didn’t really want to read it. It looked boring, stuffy and old. Now this is from someone who read The Scarlet Letter for fun, so I’m sure there was something else brewing when I looked at it. Teenage rebellion, book lover style.

But I did it. I gritted my teeth and checked it out from the school library. And I fell in love with Victorian Gothic. Not that I hadn’t read Jane Eyre, I had, but Dracula was different. It has all the roots of the modern paranormal romance, but it’s a horror story. A sensational tale for the English, who at that time were concerned about immigration and its effects on their culture. Sound familiar? Dracula was the ultimate evil immigrant.

I loved the book, and still do. The slow build of suspense as Jonathan Harker realizes he’s been drawn into a world of evil and is working for the devil himself. The three women who represent the horror of letting women be sexualized beings. And then there is the romance between Mina and Dracula where she’s contaminated by his evilness into becoming the same sort of degraded sexualized woman. Lock up the womenfolk boys, they might like the new guy better.

But of course no one really wants to become evil and Mina is saved by Jonathan’s steadfast love, Dr. Van Helsing, and that American chap. The three men pour their blood into her, keeping her chaste and eventually stalking Dracula back to his own country and killing the bastard.

Or so they thought.

Enter Fred Saberhagen and The Dracula Tape. It’s almost a hundred years later and Dracula sits in his car, near a cemetery, recording his memoirs. In a reasonable tone he recounts his version of the worst visit to a foreign country imaginable. Where he was accosted and accused and eventually driven back home. How he tried to save Lucy and Mina from the evil Dr. Van Helsing and his terrible blood transfusions. You see, Dr. Van Helsing transfused blood from all of the healthy young men, regardless of blood type. By sucking out the bad blood Dracula was simply trying to help.

He couldn’t save Lucy and eventually decided to turn her into a vampire, just because he could see, this had all been his fault. He wanted to give her her young life back. But Dr. Van Helsing and his crew broke into her grave and killed the newborn vamp. Dracula was determined not to let that happen to his beloved Mina. Yes, that’s right. He loves Mina, and Mina loves him. And who is he waiting by the cemetary for?


Mina Harker, who has lived out her life waiting for him. Just to become a vampire and be with the one she truly loved all those years. She had a human life, and kids (you meet her descendants in other books) but true love conquers all and at the end of her days she’s able to become a vampire and be with Vlad.

Mom was right. Reading Dracula enhanced Saberhagen’s book immeasurably. Oh, I could have just watched the movie, but reading the details and then seeing how Saberhagen manipulates them to show how poor Dracula was persecuted, well, it’s the way it should be done. I fell in love with Vlad and I read all the sequels. It’s not romance, but it is paranormal or maybe urban fantasy. And if you are interested in vampires at all, and in the growth of the vampire novel, Saberhagen is the one to read. After Bram Stoker, of course.


Filed under Thursdays Bite, Vampires

Why Do We Find 500 Year Old Men Sexy?

Thursdays Bite

a paranormal themed blog

Vampires are the rage.

And they’ve been the rage for so long that authors, editors and readers all wonder, how long can this go on? How long can we find new vampires to love? Well the answer is, forever. Because that’s how long they live. Forever.

And they just get sexier as they age.

I blame Bram Stoker. He wrote about a sleezy perv preditor who accosted innocent women in their sleep. Well, that’s what he thought he wrote about. But by exploring the idea that good women had secret sexual longings that the vampire could bring to light and satisfy, Bram did the complete opposite of demonizing vampires. He began the myth. If you want a good time, better get a vampire.

Maybe its their age, maybe its the experience. Maybe its the innate magical gifts they have that make them such good lovers. (It always helps to have a magical boost.) Vamps got it going on. From the secret pleasure Victorian women got from reading about the fall of Lucy and the thrill of seeing Mina almost reach nirvana, to the current frenzy about Edward and his amazing self-control, we love the blood-suckers.

Who wouldn’t want a man who is gorgeous forever and has been around enough to know true love when he finds it. A man who knows to seize the day and get the girl, no matter what obstacles stand in his way. A man who really knows that if you don’t hang on to a good woman, before you know it, she’ll be dead.

With a man of experienced years, oh say five hundred, you know he knows what he’s doing. You know he understands women inside and out. And there is none of that youthful sowing of oats. The oats have been sown, the rampant blood-sucking is over, the accidental killing of lovers is no more.

Five hundred year old men know what they want and how to get it. They have money and have had it long enough to feel comfortable with it. They are able to keep their lovers in luxurious settings, provide exotic foods, and designer dresses. And the house guests are the type of exotic interesting people every Manhattan hostess would kill to get. Every one attractive, well dressed and articulate. Every one rich. And every one with a “do tell” story of murder and mayhem.

Why wouldn’t a woman want a vampire lover. Great sex, money, appreciation. And They also provide the one of a kind adrenaline thrill that women everywhere desire. Every kiss is a brush with death.

Love to hear why you love or don’t love vamps, or any 500 year old men! Leave a comment by clicking on the purple bubble.


Filed under roots of paranormal romance, Thursdays Bite, Werewolves and the Fae