BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Nesting – by C.J. Cooke #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @RandomTTours

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Nesting Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I admit it was cover love at first sight when I first heard about this book, but it was the promise of a gothic thriller set in Norway that sealed the deal for me. And it definitely turned out to be a winner for me! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts…

Title: The Nesting
Author: C.J. Cooke
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: September 29th 2020
Publisher: HarperCollins
Finished reading: October 6th 2020
Pages: 416

“What they don’t realize is that nature has been around much longer than humans. We don’t understand it, not really.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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!! Happy publication day !!

I admit that it was cover love at first sight when I first spotted The Nesting, but the blurb itself had me fully intrigued as well. The promise of a gothic thriller set in Norway was simply irresistible… And I’m happy to say that the story most definitely ended up living up to that gorgeous cover for me. Eerie, atmospheric with a hint of the paranormal and a healthy dose of Nordic folklore… There is simply a lot to love in this modern gothic thriller.

The Norwegian setting is beautifully described as well as incorporated into the plot, and it made for the perfect backdrop for this story. You will find that eerie, dark and ominous vibe around the Nordic setting and the house itself, which sets the tone for the rest of the story and really complemented the plot. You will find yourself instantly on edge as soon as you arrive in Norway along with the main character, wondering what happened in the past and how this might relate to the present. I especially loved the incorporation of the Nordic folklore and how this element was used to add that eerie vibe as well as the hint at the supernatural. Likewise, I loved how big of a role nature itself played in it all.

The Nesting uses a multiple POV structure, which includes flashbacks with Aurelia’s POV, the past and present with Tom and the present with Lexi. While I do confess that the initial chapters with Lexi didn’t impress me too much, as soon as the story takes you to Norway I found myself to be hooked and the unique vibe of the story started to shine through. While I never did warm up to Lexi or Tom, they did make for fascinating characters to follow and the same goes for the rest of the cast. The mystery around Aurelia’s death and the flashbacks to the past were perfect to inject that supernatural vibe and it definitely gave the story that gothic and creepy feel. It was interesting to see especially Lexi develop over time and I also enjoyed seeing those secrets and lies slowly being revealed as the story evolves.

The Nesting is part supernatural with Nordic folklore elements as well as a ghost story, part domestic drama and part thriller, all dipped in a delicious horror sauce with ecological sprinkles. It’s without doubt a rich and captivating story with lots of different elements that add dept and intrigue to the story. I did have some minor issues with the plot and lack of connection to the characters, but the beautiful writing mostly makes up for that and the eerie atmosphere so present in most nordic noir stories is brilliantly developed as well. If you enjoy gothic thrillers and don’t mind dealing with unlikeable characters or stepping into the supernatural, The Nesting is an excellent addition for your wishlist.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

C.J. Cooke is an acclaimed, award-winning poet, novelist and academic with numerous other publications under the name of Carolyn Jess-Cooke. Born in Belfast, she has a PhD in Literature from Queen’s University, Belfast, and is currently Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, where she researches creative writing interventions for mental health. She also founded the Stay-At-Home Festival.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Orphan Of Cemetery Hill – by Hester Fox #blogtour @HarlequinBooks

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Orphan Of Cemetery Hill blog tour! A huge thanks to Justine Sha for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I love a good gothic vibe in a story and I’ve been wanting to try the work of Hester Fox for a while now… So of course I couldn’t resist joining the tour for The Orphan Of Cemetery Hill as the blurb of her newest story sounded fantastic. And I will definitely be coming back for more after an excellent first impression of her writing! Want to know more? Please join me while I share my thoughts…

Title: The Orphan Of Cemetery Hill
Author: Hester Fox
Genre: Historical Fiction, Paranormal
First published: September 15th 2020
Publisher: Graydon House
Finished reading: September 9th 2020
Pages: 384

“Tabby knew that her greatest fault was that, once won, her trust was too freely given.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Graydon House in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’ve been wanting to try this author for a while now, and I confess that I was immediately intrigued by the blurb of The Orphan Of Cemetery Hill as well as the atmospheric cover. I love a good gothic story and this book most definitely delivered the perfect spooky gothic atmosphere. The Orphan Of Cemetery Hill is set in mid 19th century Boston, and this historical setting is what sets the tone for a suspenseful and creepy read that packs a mean paranormal punch. The perfect marriage of gothic and paranormal with plenty of historical details to savour!

There were quite a few things I enjoyed of this story, but let’s start with the historical setting first. As far as a historical and gothic setting goes, I couldn’t have wished for something more atmospheric with the mid 19th century Boston setting and its focus on the cemetery. The descriptions and details are used to create the perfect creepy vibe and really gave the story that extra touch. Later on, we even get a bonus with the London and Edinburgh settings, which fitted right in the same gothic vibe. The setting and historical details were definitely one of the strongest assets of this story!

Another thing I loved was the paranormal angle. I confess this element isn’t always my cup of tea, but it worked really well in The Orphan Of Cemetery Hill and complemented the plot. The same goes for the whole mystery around the body snatching and grave robbing element… While it’s not the first time I see it incorporated into a story, it is an element that always intrigues me and it definitely added an air of creepiness as well as suspense to the plot. It was interesting to see both elements develop over time and I had fun figuring out how much both influence the direction of the plot.

The story is mainly told with the help fo a dual POV, with an added extra POV later on. I personally loved Tabby as the main character; both her gift itself and her character development in general stood out for me. I especially loved her relationship with Eli, but her development and reactions to the things happening in the plot were a delight to follow as well. She might seem like your typical strong female character, but she will win you over quickly with her charm and strength as well as her quirkiness. That said, I do have to say that I wasn’t too big of a fan of other main character Caleb though. I felt he was a bit too cliche and I just didn’t get a good vibe off him… This might just be because of the whole mention of the cheating and love triangle though, which is a personal pet peeve I never react well to. We didn’t see much of Tabby’s sister Alice, which is for obvious reasons of course, but I did like what I saw. Tabby is clearly the true star of the show though.

The writing itself is solid, and especially the gothic vibe and historical descriptions are spot on. While the pace was a bit haltered in points, and I could have done without the romance, overall I had a great time with this story. If you are looking for something creepy and enjoy a historical setting as well as a paranormal angle, The Orphan Of Cemetery Hill is a great option. It’s also perfect for the upcoming Halloween month!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hester Fox is a full-time writer and mother, with a background in museum work and historical archaeology. Most weekends you can find Hester exploring one of the many historic cemeteries in the area, browsing bookshops, or enjoying a seasonal latte while writing at a café. She lives outside of Boston with her husband and their son.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Author Website // Twitter // Instagram // Goodreads

BUY LINKS

Harlequin // Indiebound // Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Books-A-Million // Walmart // Google // iBooks // Kobo


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ARC REVIEW: Ruthless Gods – by Emily A. Duncan

Title: Ruthless Gods
(Something Dark And Holy #2)
Author: Emily A. Duncan
Genre: YA, Fantasy
First published: April 7th 2020
Publisher: Macmillan
Finished reading: April 7th 2020
Pages: 432

“It was the time when knives were unsheathed, when plans were created and seen into fruition. It was a time for monsters.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Macmillan in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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As soon as I first heard about this series last year I found myself to be in love with both cover and blurb. I was lucky to be able to join the blog tour for Wicked Saints and had a fantastic time reading what was a dark, gothic and simply glorious read. YA fantasy sadly tends to be on the sappy side, but Wicked Saints most definitely had none of that! I’ve been looking forward to the sequel ever since, and I was stoked to discover my Netgalley wish was actually granted a few months ago. I was fully expecting to fall in love with the sequel too, but somehow that didn’t happen… It might have been my own fault as I didn’t reread the first book to refresh memories or it might have been the fact that my mind simply wasn’t able to cope with high fantasy right now… But the sad fact is that I was seriously underwhelmed by this sequel. I’ll try explain briefly why. First of all I have to state that the beautiful writing is still there, and Ruthless Gods still has that dark and gothic feel. BUT. I felt the spark of the first book was missing, and I struggled to stay focused and interested in the story. There were a few elements that probably contributed…

We have the plot, or rather lack of a proper plot. I felt that there was no solid plot to follow in the sequel and the story felt more like a filler between book one and what is still to come. This made it harder to stay focused… The multiple POV structure and setting changes had the same effect, and distracted instead of enriching the plot and structure of the story. Not only do we have to juggle multiple POVs, but all those strange foreign names and chapter introductions with more foreign names and saints can become confusing and it’s a real chore trying to keep up with them all… On top of that, I wasn’t able to connect to the characters in the same way as I did in Wicked Saints. I struggled considerably with this sequel and even started skimreading at some point as the constant bickering, overdose of strange names and lack of plot really got to me. And no, even the beautiful writing couldn’t rescue that. This might have been the wrong story for me in these strange times, but the fact is that this series has lost its enchantment for me… Don’t give up on this series yet if you enjoyed the first book though, because I’m having a feeling that my reaction to this story resulted into one of those unpopular opinion reviews all over again.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #104 – And The Ocean Was Our Sky & The Thirteenth Tale

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two stories belonging to completely different genres, but both were excellent reads. And The Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness has the most beautiful illustrations and a very interesting retelling of the Moby Dick classic. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield might have a slow pace, but the story itself is one that will stay with me for quite some time.


Title: And The Ocean Was Our Sky
Author: Patrick Ness

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Retelling
First published: September 4th 2018
Publisher: Walker Books
Finished reading: May 30th 2019
Pages: 160

“Here is the truth behind the myth: all men are Toby Wick. For who needs devils when you have men?”


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I’ve been excited about this title ever since it was published last year, especially since I kept seeing photos of the illustrations and they looked absolutely gorgeous. Now I’ve had the chance to read And The Ocean Was Our Sky, I still believe the illustrations are the true power behind the story. They really take the writing to the next level and turn this story into something special; it wouldn’t have been the same without them. As for the story itself: I admit things can get a bit confusing and sometimes it felt more magical realism than a fantasy retelling, but overall I really liked how Patrick Ness turned the original Moby Dick story into something completely new and original. The idea of the whales and men both roaming the seas and hunting each other is fascinating. Even more intriguing is that the main focus is on the whales, and their world is basically upside down. Bathsheba is a very interesting character and basically the one to challenge the world as they know it and also the one trying to understand men instead of just trying to fight them. Not much is told about Toby Wick, adding to his mystery and myth while also adding intrigue to the story. And The Ocean Was Our Sky is without doubt a story you won’t come across every day and it might not be for everyone, but there is one thing for sure: the illustrations are absolutely wonderful.


Title: The Thirteenth Tale
Author: Diane Setterfield

Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: September 12th 2006
Publisher: Atria Books
Finished reading: May 31st 2019
Pages: 416

“A birth is not really a beginning. Our lives at the start are not really our own but only the continuation of someone else’s story.”


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I’ve been meaning to pick up The Thirteenth Tale for years now, but it was simply one of those titles that kept slipping between the cracks of my enormous TBR mountain… I’m glad I was finally able to dig it out and read it though. It was my first experience with Diane Setterfield‘s work and I already know it won’t be my last. What a wonderful and atmospheric way of describing the setting and characters! The Thirteenth Tale has that gothic feel and the fact that you don’t know exactly when the story is set makes it all the more intriguing. A lot of speculation about the time period can be found on the internet, but there seems to be no clear winner and I like how it leaves the answer wide open for each reader to decide on their own. It’s true that the pace can be considerably slow at points and there are parts where nothing much is happening, but the power of The Thirteenth Tale is in the different characters, their development and their role in the story of famous author Vida Winter. Both the Angelfield house and family give off that creepy and gothic vibe and there are some moments that will make your hair stand on end. I like how Margaret not just believes everything Vida Winter tells her (especially with her history of lying), but instead starts her own investigation as well. Past and present are mixed and fully intertwined in such a way that the separation becomes liquid and all characters fully come alive. The Thirteenth Tale has secrets, twists and turns to reveal and some you definitely won’t see coming. But like I said before, the power behind this story is in the characters and fantastic descriptions, and fans of slower, atmospheric and character-driven historical fiction will love The Thirteenth Tale. Bonus: there are a lot of bookish references to be found including classics like Jane Eyre!


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ARC REVIEW: Daughters Of The Lake – by Wendy Webb

Title: Daughters Of The Lake
Author: Wendy Webb
Genre: Mystery, Gothic, Paranormal
First published: November 1st 2018
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: November 9th 2018
Pages: 317

“But some stories, especially peculiar, hidden ones involving murder and mystery, have a way of bubbling to the surface, especially when wrongs need to be righted.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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Between the cover and blurb I was fully intrigued when I first saw Daughters Of The Lake, the promise of a century old mystery connected with the present a big selling point. I was more than pleasantly surprised when I discovered that Daughers Of The Lake isn’t just another mystery story with a dual timeline. No, this story has a lot more to offer. A hint of paranormal with a haunted house and ghost and a touch of supernatural with the lake and its folk tale stories; both adding a very original touch to the story and one of the reasons this story worked so well for me. Daughters Of The Lake mostly reads like a paranormal gothic romance story, with the romance scenes being very well balanced out with the mystery and intrigue of the past. We have a love triangle, and we have cheating, but somehow I wasn’t as bothered by those tropes as they weren’t the main focus of the story. This perfect balance between the different elements makes it really easy to emerge yourself fully in the story and enjoy the ride. The characters are well developed and even though a few cliches are involved, they were easy to like. Especially Simon and Addie will win over your heart in record time. The writing is also beautiful and really flowed; I really liked the descriptions of both characters and setting. While the setting in Daughters Of The Lake is fictional, it shows that it’s based on real memories as it almost feels as if you were visiting those places yourself. I loved the idea of the lake folk tale and all it entails… The paranormal element and Kate’s dreams are  intriguing without it going over the top and becoming too much. It was fascinating finding out more about the past and it was great to see how things developed in the present as well. Daughters Of The Lake was without doubt a wonderful read that is worth your time.

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After a painful discovery that made Kate Granger realize her marriage is now over, she moved back in with her parents on Lake Superior to think about her future. But fate has different plans for her in store, as a body of a murdered woman is found near her parents’ home. Nobody can identify the woman, except for Kate… She has seen her before in her dreams. And somehow she knew the woman whould have a baby with her. Her reaction turns her into an instant suspect, especially since she can’t exactly tell the police she recognized the woman from her dreams. Kate is determined to find out who she is and what happened to her, especially since her dreams seem to become more intense.

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Daughters Of The Lake is a wonderfully written paranormal romance and mystery story with a gothic feel. What at first glance seems to be a simply mystery and historical crime with a dual timeline turns out to be so much more, giving you a rich and original plot to savour. I especially loved the folk tale elements, and the paranormal touch is well constructed as well. The balance between all those different elements is spot on, and with easy to like characters you will have an excellent time discovering more about the past and how it affects the present. Recommended!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #1: Still Life With Tornado & We Have Always Lived In The Castle


Say hello to a new feature on It’s All About Books! As you all probably already know, I’ve been fighting with a rather stubborn reading and blogging slump during the last few months and it’s been a real struggle… I managed to get more or less back to reading, but as the pending book reviews started piling up the whole ‘getting back to blogging’ was getting more and more difficult to achieve. Currently the list of pending reviews is about twenty books long and while I know I don’t HAVE to review every book, I feel bad if I not at least mention a few things about each one. Hence, Yvo’s Shorties was born. Similar to my normal reviews, but with a 2×1 book bonus in each post that includes my rambles about both.

Let’s get started with the first edition! *drumroll*

Featuring Still Life With Tornado by A.S. King and We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson


Title: Still Life With Tornado
Author: A.S. King

Genre: YA, Magical Realism, Contemporary
First published: October 11th 2016
Publisher: Dutton Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: December 14th 2017
Pages: 295

“I put out my umbrella and open it. There is a tornado of bullshit in our house. When it’s over, we will be okay.”

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This book has been receiving a lot of mixed reviews, but the blurb sounded fascinating and I just couldn’t resist giving it a go. Fact: magical realism and me don’t always get along all that well. It’s a peculiar genre that either works for you or doesn’t, and for me it really depends on the execution if I’m able to enjoy the magical realism elements. Unfortunately in the case of Still Life Of Tornado I wasn’t convinced. First of all and more importantly, I really didn’t like the writing style, tone or main character (or other characters for that matter) and this hugely impacted my reading experience. I’m not saying the writing style is bad, but it’s definitely one that isn’t for everyone. The lack of connection to the characters and my struggles with the writing style made it hard for me to keep myself focused on the story, but that wasn’t all. Honestly, I felt that nothing really made sense to me at all and my eyebrows worked overtime while I was reading Still Life With Tornado. Magical realism or not, this book is definitely not my cup of tea. Still, I also feel the right person could really enjoy this quirky story.


Title: We Have Always Lived In The Castle
Author: Shirley Jackson

Genre: Classics, Fiction, Gothic
First published: 1962
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Finished reading: December 22nd 2017
Pages: 146

“I remember that I stood on the library steps holding my books and looking for a minute at the soft hinted green in the branches against the sky and wishing, as I always did, that I could walk home across the sky instead of through the village.”

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I have been wanting to read this modern classic for ages now, and I’m still not sure why it took me this long to pick up my copy of We Have Always Lived In The Castle. I truly had the feeling this was going to be another new favorite classic, so I was really surprised when I ended up having a completely different reading experience instead. I’m not sure what I expected when I picked up We Have Always Lived In The Castle, but it definitely wasn’t what I found when I started reading. Because honestly, nothing much really happens during all those pages. The promise of suspense is there, and the mystery around what happened at the Blackwood estate, but those promises didn’t come true. Instead, I found it a rather dull story about two quirky sisters living isolated in a mansion, and I was almost bored while I was kept waiting with my fingers crossed and hoping to see something would actually happen. I’m not sure what to think of the ending either… The writing was interesting and I can see why it has turned into a modern classic, but personally I was quite disappointed with what I found. Fans of slowpaced, mostly character-driven stories will probably enjoy this story a lot more though.


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BOOK REVIEW: The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow – by Washington Irving

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Title: The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow
Author: Washington Irving
Genre: Horror, Classics, Fantasy, Gothic
First published: 1820
Finished reading: October 3rd 2014
Pages: 96
Rating 3

“I profess not to know how women’s hearts are wooed and won. To me they have always been matters of riddle and admiration.”

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The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow has been on my TBR pile for quite some time now. After seeing the trailer of the TV series with the same name the other day, I thought it was about time to read this classic novel written by Washington Irving. I’m not sure why I’ve never read this or why they didn’t make it into an obligatory read during high school… Irving seems to have been inspired by the Dutch culture after all. I must say I didn’t really like the story. I guess I was expecting something way more creepy when I decided to read this short story. I definitely didn’t expect it to be an almost boring story full of dense prose and long descriptions. I understand The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow was written back in 1820 and while this explains the language he used, I just couldn’t enjoy this story as much as I would have expected. But then again I was really in the mood for a serious dose of horror, and that exactly what this story doesn’t deliver…

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The Sleepy Hollow is a village set in the beautiful countryside and is said to be hounted by ghosts. One of the most famous ghosts is the Headless Horseman, who is said to be patrolling the country on his horse. Ichabod works as a teacher and lives of the kindness of his students’ parents. He soon falls in love with the daughter of the Van Tassels, but he isn’t the only one… The very imposing Brom Bones is trying to win her heart as well. At a party where both men are invited, they all start telling ghost stories. Brom tries to convince everyone he has actually seen the Headless Horseman, challenged him and won the race. Ichabod finally leaves the party understanding he cannot win the battle, but as he tries to go back to the village he comes to realize the ghost stories turned out to be true…

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I probably decided to read this story at the wrong moment. The descriptions are actually quite beautifully done and make you feel as though you were visiting the countryside and its people yourself. I liked the many references to the Dutch culture and food and I totally agree with Irving that the desserts are the best part of the Dutch kitchen (and I guess that’s what I miss most after spending various years abroad; hmm stroopwafels). What I don’t understand is that this is supposed to be a horror story. I couldn’t find any truly spooky moments and the Headless Horseman didn’t seem scary at all from the descriptions Irving used. I guess that is mostly what made me feel disappointed with this story, although I still recommend it to those who enjoy beautiful prose of historical value.

BOOK REVIEW: Dracula – by Bram Stoker

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Title: Dracula
Author: Bram Stoker
Genre: Classics, Horror, Gothic
First published: August 17th 1879
Finished reading: July 21st 2014
Pages: 512
Rating 3,5

“But there are things old and new which must not be contemplated by men’s eye, because they know, or think they know, some things which other men have told them. Ah. it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all, and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain.”

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When I first started reading Dracula, I was like yes, yes, YES! The first part where we read the diary of Jonathan Harker and he meets Count Dracula in Transilvania is brilliant. But; and there comes the big but: when the scenes moved to Whitby the story slowed down drastically. The diaries of Mina and Lucy I found dreadfully close to boring… Luckily after a hundred pages or so the storytelling improved and the last part of the book sure is interesting. Nothing better than a good old-fashioned vampire hunt to spice up the story! Although the novel was published 135 years ago, the story wasn’t that difficult to follow and I have to say I definitely prefer Stoker‘s version of Count Dracula over the ‘fake’ vampires books are based on nowadays. Go Count Dracula!

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Jonathan Harker has to travel to Transylvania for business; he is asked to help Count Dracula buying a house in London. He doesn’t know Dracula is hiding a terrible secret, but slowly he makes some horrifying discoveries about what is really going on in the Count’s castle. Dracula doesn’t seem to eat, he is never around during the day and the castle seems deserted… And Jonathan soon realizes he is trapped within the castle. After an encounter with three very terrifying ladies, he is certain to know his days are numbered. But in the end somehow Jonathan makes it back to England anyway.

We meet the ladies Mina and Lucy, who are close friends, through their letters and diaries. Mina is the girlfriend and soon-to-be wife of Jonathan, and Lucy is being courted by three different men. Soon strange things start to happen in the small town they live and that goes under the name Whitby. First a ship crashed but was found to be unmanned… Then Lucy becomes ill and strange puncture marks are found on her neck. Lucy had already chosen her husband-to-be, but all three men are determined to help her fight her disease. They even ask for the help of the Dutch doctor Van Helsing, who turns out to be an expert in the curious and the unexplained. He soon has his theory but as it seems all help comes too late…

Poor Lucy became a victim of Count Dracula, and he is now trying to make himself comfortable living in a new country.  But the men are determined to fight this monster and soon start a true vampire chase weaponed with garlic, stakes and what more. They realize they have to put haste behind this search, because poor Mina is starting to have symptoms as well. But the Count is fleeing England, and finding him isn’t as easy as it seems. Their hunt brings the group back to Transylvania, the home country of Dracula and the place the final battle will take place…

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In general I really enjoyed reading this classic by Bram Stoker and I would definitely recommend it to those who love reading gothic classics and want to know how vampires originally were like. Like I said before: Go Count Dracula!