Saturday, September 28, 2013

Is it really the end for Dexter?

I have enjoyed reading suspense novels ever since I read my first mystery. I'm not sure if it is thrill of anticipation, or the suspenseful conclusion that makes my heart race. I also love when the bad guy "gets it in the end". Well, with Dexter Morgan, I had it all rolled into one. Now, I am not saying Dexter is my Knight in Shining Armor, he is more like the Dark Knight watching from around the corner. I found the character of Dexter immediatlely intriguing when I discovered Jeff Lindsay's first novel about the sociopathic vigilante, Darkly Dreaming Dexter. I read this wonderful book soon after it was released in 2004. The very next year I devoured Dearly Devoted Dexter. I was not at all surprised when in 2006 Showtime aired the first season of the series Dexter based on the first book. I have to admit, once I saw Michael C. Hall as Dexter I never veered from his image in my mind while reading. Even though I only watched the first four seasons, I was sitting on the edge of my seat every Sunday to see what injustice Dexter would try to rectify.

A few years ago I found Jeff Lindsay's Facebook page and Liked it, since I actually do love his writing and his characters. Last month Mr. Lindsay posted a link to Doubleday's fan giveaway. They were giving away 25 advanced copies of the newest (and supposedly final) book featuring Dexter, Dexter's Final Cut. I was THRILLED a few weeks after entering the contest to have a copy arrive at my front door. I know the book went on sale almost two weeks ago, so I am not posting any information die-hard fans don't already have access to, however I will not ruin anything for loyal readers or even new recruits.

Dexter's Final Cut
by Jeff Lindsay
Lindsay does not disappoint, well actually ~ he does ~ in the sense this is the FINAL book. I guess it could be considered unnatural to say I love Dexter, but as a character who takes care of those who have performed terrible acts of violence on innocents, he is like a modern day Robin Hood. I know it is a sin to kill, but he justifies his killings based on "Harry's Code" (his father's eye for an eye like theory). I will admit this book is not as graphic as the previous books (or if you have seen the series, not as bloody), but the storyline is suspenseful and hard to put down.

The introduction to the book took me by surprise and I was a bit concerned about Dexter. The first sentence, "It's not that bad being dead." almost caused me to close the book. I just couldn't face the fact that Dexter could be dead! Again, back to the creepy part about me really liking this person who in reality (or literary reality) is a serial killer. These are not the people you are supposed to be drawn to as a normal human, right?!? Thankfully I did not stop reading. I mean, how could Lindsay possibly kill off this iconic character in the first sentence? So, I kept reading.

Come to find out, Dexter and his sister, Deborah become involved in a new police drama which will be filming in Miami. Dexter is going to be shadowed by Robert Chase (a television heart throb - adored by Dexter's wife Rita) while Deborah will be shadowed by Jackie Forrest who will be starring in the drama as a character very much like Deborah - "a hard-as-nails woman detective" (pg. 13).  Being an active police detective and blood-splatter expert, Deborah and Dexter are quickly wrapped up in a murder investigation. This is where the blood and gore is introduced and the action begins.

I felt like I saw a new side to Dexter in this book. I know he has developed over the years from a bachelor, to a husband and instant step-father, but he seemed to show a little more depth and emotion (if you can actually call it that for a sociopath) in this "final cut". The title could be interpreted as a double entendre, which obviously was Lindsay's intent, but ironically Dexter doesn't actually do very much cutting in this book.

Like I said earlier, I did not watch the series after the infamous Trinity Killer, Arthur Mitchell ~ wonderfully portrayed by John Lithgow (who won a Golden Globe and a Primetime Emmy for his character). Since I was a fan of the books, I didn't want the show to take away my desire to read each new book that was released. I guess I was afraid I would be disappointed by the series because it couldn't live up to the movie I had created in my head.

I am not going to say our devilishly, divine Dexter is dead and gone. I am not going to say he is dwelling in Denmark, Dubai, or even one of the Dakotas. All I will say is Lindsay has provide a unique manner in which to create an entirely new series as a spin off. I would love to see how he would develop this daring design. I don't mean to deviate from my devotion to Dexter. Hmmm, I guess you could say I am a fan.

Now that I know the books and the series (which actually veered away from the books and were developed with their own storylines in the seasons following the first) have ended I might decide to go back and watch the four seasons I missed. I guess when you think about it, Dexter is Lindsay's character, and whether the words are written in a book or portrayed on the television by an awesome actor like Hall, I will always remember the thrill of learning about Dexter, especially through his own words, "I am a very neat monster." (Darkly Dreaming Dexter, 2004)

Thank you to Mr. Jeff Lindsay for posting the information about the online contest. Thank you also to Doubleday for sending me a complimentary advanced reader's copy of Dexter's Final Cut.

*To comply with new guidelines introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Doubleday for providing a complimentary electronic copy and paperback advanced reader's copy of this book for review purposes. My review is in no way influenced by the author or publishing company and is solely my opinion.

Monday, September 23, 2013

America's Gross History

I have been a history enthusiast for quite awhile. I think my love of history developed when I had a wonderful teacher in high school name Coach Zidermanis. I was excited to enter his classroom everyday because I knew he was going to weave fascinating stories into the historical facts he wanted us to remember. In college I continued this love by taking a number of courses, eventually earning a minor in history. To this day I love to read about our history, whether through biographies or historical fiction.

Ick! Yuck! Eew!: Our Gross American History by Lois Miner Huey peaked my interest immediately. Most of the information in the book I already knew because of Coach Z's stories, my personal readings, or visits to historical locations around the country. My prior knowledge about these disgusting treatments, habits, etc., prepared me for this wonderful non-fiction book which I believe any elementary or middle school student would find fascinating and repugnant at the same time.

Ick! Yuck! Eew!: Our Gross American History
by Lois Miner Huey
Huey includes all of the essentials and more for this non-fiction text: table of contents, glossary, source notes, selected bibliography, further reading (books and websites), places to visit, and an index. In four interesting and informative we are introduced to the vile surroundings and happenings of 1770 North America.

As we are transported through a time machine to 1770, the setting is set for us. We are shifted from present day and time to June 1770 in a "city populated mostly by white settlers". Huey is great about providing additional information concerning aspects of history to which the young readers may not be familiar. Such as the fact there will not be any Native Americans in the city and the "black people were enslaved (to) work as house servants and in shops" (pg. 5). 

We are then plunged head first into "The Awful Smells" of the city. I'm sure most readers will find their habit of tossing the contents of the chamber pot into the street disgusting (and not typically shared in the state history books), but it happened. Some may find this information disturbing, however it can help readers understand certain sayings they may have heard, but never understood - "Don't have a pot to piss in". I know this is a bit crass, but in order to understand the saying, one must understand the conditions from which the early settlers were living in at the time. There was no running water, no toilet. We also learn the people in this time period felt bathing to be unhealthy. It was believed a film of dirt on the body would keep out bad air which could cause diseases. Native American bathed in creeks and streams and felt the Europeans smelled. Women would wear heavy perfumes in order to hide their odor and fan's to keep odor away and to hide their rotting teeth. 

The next chapter takes us to "Creepy, Crawly Bugs". We are told we will be spending the night in a tavern, sharing a bed with two other travelers. Huey's description of the mosquitoes, bedbugs, and head lice made me start to itch while reading. Reading about the flies buzzing around the meat hanging in the streets for sale and the cook killing the flour beetles in the flour (and missing some) before using it to cook will make most readers thankful for pesticides and food regulations. Hook- and Tapeworms are touched upon, but these were bugs the settlers suffered through without knowing they existed.

A few years ago I learned the symbolic representation of the red and white barber pole. Off the top of my head I couldn't say where I learned this, but the barbers "skill with sharp instruments" allowed them to "sometimes perform operations" (p. 27). Now, the pole is not actually mentioned in this book, but the barber's non-hair cutting duties - such as pulling teeth, bloodletting, and some surgeries - are mentioned. Doctors are also shown to create a balance in the body for sick patients through bloodletting and the use of leeches. It was believed the removal of bodily fluids (blood, poop, pus, sweat, urine, and vomit) would remove the imbalance, thus making the person healthy again.

Through television and movies we have seen the early settlers wore an abundance of clothing. In the final chapter of this informative book we learn although they wore many layers, underwear was not part of their wardrobe. We also learn that like taking a bath, washing of clothes was limited to "shifts, shirts, poopy diapers (not urine soaked diapers - which were merely hung to dry), bedsheets, and stockings" (p. 38). The outer garments - "coats, breeches, vests, and gowns" were almost never washed. This reinforces the smell of the time, as well as the spread of germs and disease.

This is a wonderful book for upper elementary and middle school students. I believe high school and adult readers would find the information disturbing, but very interesting. I would highly recommend this book for school and public libraries.

*To comply with new guidelines introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Millbrook Press, has provided a complimentary electronic copy of this book for review purposes. My review is in no way influenced by the author or publishing company and is solely my opinion.