October 8, 2015

National Poetry Day

October 8 is National Poetry Day!

There are just too many poems to share to celebrate this momentous occasion. We could spend hours upon hours reading Keats, Byron, Emerson, Longfellow, Silverstein, and that's the tiniest list of poets I've ever seen! Imagine how long it could take to share all those poems!

Instead, I'll share something that I've written. I may not be as famous as Emily Dickinson or E.E. Cummings, but that's all right, because anyone can be a poet. Anyone who says the words that are written on their heart is a poet. Good thing there are so many forms to choose from, we can be our own poets.

And so without further ado, here is a series of poems I wrote. Happy National Poetry Day!

by Janelle Spiers

They cut the trees with merciless ease
Felling the stories and rings.
With shattering sighs and gasps for breath
They leveled the growing things.

The dryads screamed for mercy
But they were drowned out by the roar
Of the mighty machine with its teeth like knives
Hungrily gnawing for more.

Green leaves fell down like salty tears
And watered the broken ground
As the spirits in the trees
Were crushed without a sound.

They cut the trees with merciless ease
To thin the verdure, green
Such sight and sound I now have heard,
But I wish it hadn’t been.

In a wood they stood
Tall and proud
But now they lay
In aching shroud.

They used to sing
And tell us tales
But now I hear
Only pitiful wails.

Where once was beauty
Now is dying
Like worn out washing
Hung for drying.

Like corpses laid
On a funeral pyre
They wait for the end.
It will end in fire.

All things must come to an end.
All things must come to pass.
Even fallen bodies lying
Cold upon the grass.

Drenched in oil, lit with sparks
But nary a word or tear.
Dancing flame upon the wood
And those who listen, hear:

Crying voices, all in pain
Shrieking from the heat.
Their moaning turns to whispers
As they suffer such defeat.

Death creeps close along the logs
Reveling in his feast
His orange tongue licks achingly
Over the deceased.

Burning snowflakes fall to earth
And land in drifts of dust.
The whispers of voices float around
And speak of fire’s lust.

Gentle ashes touch the ground
And darken up the soil.
A tiny touch on any piece
And the shape will surely spoil.

The memories of root and bark
Are floating through the sky
And when they touch the ground again
Their memory will die.

Burning snowflakes fall to earth
And sing their final song.
They tell of days when life was green,
Before their life was gone.

October 7, 2015

What We Wish We Weren't

A friend of mine recently asked the question, 'What is a body?' and then proceeded to answer it in the most beautiful and poetic way imaginable. It caught my attention and I asked if I could share it with all of you, because it's a message that needs to be shared and contemplated. It rings with truth and purity; that's hard to find nowadays.

"What is a body? A literal reflection of our inner selves? A walking organ that functions based off of the whims of some unseen soul? A prison? We become so consumed with the outer appearance of a shell, of the case that protects the vibrant life that resides inside. We color it and paint it, putting on airs and dressing it up telling the world "this is me! Look at my clothes and my skin and my hair. Look at the way I walk and talk and move. This is me." Lies. This is a disguise. A clever trick of the world that allows us to present to our fellow beings exactly what we wish. But what is the point? Who are you trying to impress? They do not live inside your head, they do not spend everyday trapped within the confines of your mind, listening to the endless torrent of thoughts and emotions never ceasing, never letting you rest. We are forced to face ourselves everyday, and often we do not like what we see, because we see what is real. The true being behind the disguise. But what of the world? It cannot handle what resides behind my eyes. Luckily I need not let them see what hides inside. For I have been given a mannequin that I can dress and change to fit my whims. I can make it say what I like and do what I want while I hide within, playing a game with the outside world, waiting to see who will see the cracks in my disguise. My body has become a prison, I have trapped myself with the ideas of what I should be. But is that the function of a body? Is that it's role in the design of the world? To be a cage? I highly doubt it. Our bodies are what we present to the world, merely because we cannot show them what is inside. Therefore what we portray on our outer shell should be a reflection of the inside. Not of the pain and anger. And not of the joy and peace. But a mixture of both. Only then will we be fair to ourselves and say to the world "this is me. Broken and fragile. Sin filled and prideful. But still beautiful." It's time to turn this prison into a home, to build and fix it because it is our residence, to love it because it is a gift, a dwelling to house who we really are, even if only for a short time. It's time to set the captive free and stop hiding away in fear of what we wish we weren't." ~ Caresse N. Hassoldt

Challenge yourself today, dear Reader, wherever you are and whatever your story may be to discover, What is your body? Is it your prison? Complicated machinery? What are you doing with it? Is it meant to impress, is it meant to hide? How can you set yourself free and live the full life? 

 "It's time to set the captive free and stop hiding away in fear of what we wish we weren't."

September 15, 2015

Adventure is out There!

Once upon a time, a well-to-do Hobbit was asked to go on an Adventure.

His name was Bilbo Baggins, and the idea of Adventure was alarming. He was very comfortable in his cozy house, he had good friends, a lovely corner of the world to dwell in, and a beautiful place to call home. He believed, and he was right in thinking so, that Adventures were nasty, uncomfortable affairs that made one late for dinner.

But as time went on, his curiosity and excitement proved stronger than his determination to stay put. Bilbo realized that he needed to go on the Adventure, not only for his sake, but for the sake of others. He decided he was willing to face his fear, challenge the danger, and run pel-mel into the midst of the unknown, even if he would miss some supper or have to sleep on the ground instead of his nice little feather bed. He was a courageous Hobbit, whose small strength and bravery seemed hardly capable of penetrating the looming darkness, but he was willing, after a lot of fretting and worrying, to do his very best!

Bilbo answered the calling Adventure, and when he returned, he found that he was forever changed. He saw through eyes of experience and trial the hidden paths and unknown places that had always been beyond his reach, and his hands were rough from fighting and hard work. He no longer fit in among his peers because he had so drastically gone out, but Bilbo never lacked friends, they were only different to the sort of company he used to have.

Bilbo Baggins became known as one of the most famous Hobbits in all the history of Hobbits, and the world would have been a very different place had he declined his Adventure, because of course, all of us are called for some kind of Adventure. Some are great and some are small, but none, not even the smallest, is less important than the most epic of Adventures. The quiet ones are most comfortable, but Bilbo's Adventure molded him into better shape, as we all must try to do.

Once upon a time, in another world and time, a young teenager was asked to go on an Adventure, and, well, you get the picture...

This summer I took the Adventure of my lifetime and moved from my home in Colorado across the country to a new home in Tennessee. There have been mountains to move, rivers to cross, and valleys to climb, with some blood, sweat, and a lot of tears throughout. Like Bilbo Baggins, I'm learning to face the challenges and meet it with trembling courage. He made it seem so much easier.

I've learned a lot through these past months, and I'm only at the beginning of the Adventure. There's so much more to come and I'm ready to face it, come what may. I hope that someday, I shall return, go 'there and back again', as Bilbo did, but for now, I'm taking one step forward toward the right direction. It's the least I can do. I'm on an Adventure, after all.

P.S. Bilbo was right, Adventures make you late for dinner...

June 1, 2015

The Jigsaw People of this Puzzle World

Life is a puzzle and we are all jigsaw pieces, trying to make something of the world.

Each of us have our own little life-puzzle that we have to fit together every day. A child's is simple and has fewer pieces to deal with. It makes more sense to put together because there is a surplus of youthful innocence and eagerness to work with the few pieces they have.  The colors are bright, the picture is appealing, the edges are smooth and straight, and they enjoy everything about them in their little puzzle world.

But as we get older and begin to have more doubts and loves and fears, responsibilities, chaos, and joy, the picture starts to change. What was once clear and defined becomes more confusing, since it has a lot more pieces that need a place, and the edges are rough; there are no more straight lines.  The colors darken with our deeper understanding of a messed up, scary world, and the picture no longer makes any sense. No matter how you tilt your head, you can't see what the picture is, but you still have to add pieces and pieces to the jumbled pile, hoping that something beautiful will turn out.

As we struggle valiantly to make sense of it all, little do we realize that right next door, or across the street, there's another person with a puzzle of their own.  Everywhere you look, each person has a life that needs to be sorted out, put together, and built up, one piece at a time.  Some of us have lives that are bright and cheery, the colors on the jigsaw tiles are bold and beautiful, even tough there's still not a complete picture. Others are shunned because of their puzzle.  Their puzzle-life is so dark and obscure that they feel that their whole world is an abyss without a trace of color, no picture, no beauty, no light, love, or passion. Their's is a puzzle far darker than yours, and the edges are rougher than a jagged cliff where it seems that no beauty can ever penetrate.

But what if we were to put all the pieces together?  All the pieces from everyone's puzzle, could we combine our rough edges with a smooth one, and connect them so that they all fit?  The world is made up of individuals, with individual stories or puzzles. But in reality, if you step back and let it all shrink into proportion, we are all one piece of a greater picture. Each piece in our story that seems so huge or monumental is a tiny drop of color in one sea of paint.

When we combine our puzzles with someone else's, we see the formation of a picture, more clear and interesting than our isolated one. The colors blend and the chaos doesn't seem so glaring. As more and more individuals come together all the bleak pasts and hopeful futures merge into a larger, brighter story. There are dark spots, but they line up and blend beautifully with another colorful life.  The woman down the street who was abused, with dark, ugly colors in her puzzle, found a woman with gentle hands to help her, whose own puzzle has a dark streak, but learned to find the color in the world.

We need each other, we humans. Life would look so drab and impossible without them. Of course, some people can't fit together like others. It will take a lifetime of rearranging, turning, and moving to find a place where we fit beautifully with another soul. That's what families are meant for; even in the searching and scrambling to fit in, there should always be a place to call home and know that you belong.

And we all belong. No piece is not meant to fit in the puzzle of life. Jigsaw tiles will forever be added to the edges, increasing the size and picture. The old ones will fade and lose their color over time, but they're no less important after they are dead, because they're still part of the bigger picture. While we are living, breathing, jigsaw tiles, we should never give up or give in, because just when all things seem utterly desperate and impossible, we'll be ushered into a place where we fit with other souls who know our pain, with souls who can heal and help us, and other jigsaw pieces that fill our empty spots. We are never useless, because if we live the full life, we'll find that even though we need help, we help others too, because no jigsaw in this life is cut with all holes, but with circles or squares to fill another person up.

Life is a puzzle, a mystery, and an awful mess sometimes, but we are the pieces that make a great picture. We're the jigsaw people of this puzzle world, and we create a story of passion, beauty, sorrow, and ultimately, the greatest picture that this world can know.  We fit together, despite our wounds, despite our colors, despite our differences to paint the perfect picture of the Maker's love. We see it on a small scale when we step back and enjoy the view, but every day, every circumstance adds another piece to our lives and another's until the end of time when we will finally have a bird's eye view of the place we called home. The puzzle will be completed and we'll take a sigh and shed a few tears; all the work, good and bad, has led to the moment when we are enveloped, wholly and holy in the love of the Maker, who created the ultimate picture, who hand made every piece, and even when we kicked and screamed, pushed us into the places we best belong.

May 9, 2015

Tribute to Ellie

Tribute To Ellie

I didn't know you well, dear girl,
But I knew your precious heart.
Your smile, your grace,
Your beautiful face
Reflected who you are;
Reflected who you were. 

I wish I'd known you better, friend,
But from what I'd seen of you
You're kind, you're smart,
You're a work of art
And it shines with a light like gold;
It shone with a light like gold.

When first you met me smiling,
I saw beauty sharp and clear.
When last I saw you smiling, 
There was love, and never fear. 
I saw a glow that shone through you
With pure and radiate light.
You showered love like rain
And you fought the hardest fight. 

I think I know you now, dear girl,
I've seen your precious heart. 
Your joy, your grace, 
Your beautiful face
Reflected how you love;
Reflected how you loved. 

I wish I'd known you better, friend,
But from what I know of you
You were sweet, you were smart
You're a work of art
And it shines with the brightest light;
It shone with the brightest light. 

When first you met me smiling,
I saw beauty sharp and clear. 
Now we're left with a vision
A shadow of you, dear.
We see the light that shone in you
That will never cease to gleam.
You've changed the world in a gentle way;
You're the sweetest, brightest beam. 

April 30, 2015

A Flight of Fancy III

A Flight of Fancy III
Janelle Spiers

The Flight Of Fancy: A Collection of Short Story Samples All Based On This Beginning Sentence...

"The brilliant blaze was burning my eyes, but I couldn't tell where it was coming from..."

'The brilliant blaze was burning my eyes, but I couldn't tell where it was coming from.  As I forced my body to sit up, I was able to discern that I was on a sandy beach and the lapping of ocean waves was audible. The sun was overhead, must have been why I couldn't see anything, it was so bright.  My throat was thick and my tongue felt parched, so I struggled to my feet. I needed a drink of water, then I would figure out what I was going to do; I remembered through the beating pulses of my headache the fire on deck, the explosion, and being flung headlong into the ocean. I felt weak at the thought of my comrades, all of whom were undoubtedly lost...'

'The brilliant blaze was burning my eyes, but I couldn't tell where it was coming from, so I shut the door and stopped to catch my nervous breath. Instantly, the light disappeared from the cracks around the old steel door.  
'What did you see, Hemlock? Was it a ghost?' 
'No, Sheila, I don't think so. I don't know what it was.' I felt my knees tremble and I couldn't let her know that I was as terrified as she was. 'Come on, doll face, let's get back to your grandfather. He'll want us back before tea-time; I think we've done enough exploring for one day.' 
She agreed, as so we turned to go back up the stairs, but though I was nervous, my curiosity was still piqued enough by the light in the safe. 'One more look, Sheila. Just one more.' I felt for the handle and pulled the door open just a crack. 
Instantly, two things happened which I will never be able to forget, no matter how old or aged I become; the events that followed will haunt me forever, because they shaped my future. First, I opened the door slightly, and the light flooded back into the room, but a heavy force pushed the safe all the way open, shoving me to the floor. and second, Sheila screamed so piercingly I felt the blood in my heart freeze as I turned to see a dark shadow gliding down the stairs towards us...'

"The brilliant blaze was burning my eyes, but I couldn't tell where it was coming from. The smoke was intense and it was billowing upwards in the sky.  As the villagers ran away from the blaze, I slid my feet into my boots and ran towards the epicenter of panic. 
'Haldrim, do something!' The people pleaded as I ran through their midst. 
'I will if you will let me through!' I shouted as I pushed my way through the mob of frightened citizens. Once I broke through the sooty masses, I unfurled my wings and glided over the abandoned homes and desecrated livelihoods. This must be the work of the Gahool. Only they could wreak such damage on the innocents.  I thought to myself as I soared towards the capitol. 
Suddenly, arrows whizzed through the air in front of me and I dived to the ground, but not swiftly enough. An arrow pierced my forearm, and I lost balance; plummeting harshly to the ground. I barely had time to get to my feet, much less remove the arrow and bind my wounds before three archers came running with their weapons at the ready. 
'Stand down, creature.' They called in bold voices, but I could read the fear in their eyes like poetry; they were terrified, and I found that beautiful. 
'Nay, fiends. Why should I bow down to my assailants? If you want me, you'll have to come and get me...'
...A Flight of Fancy... 

April 28, 2015

Fruit of the Spirit: Peace

The Fruit of the Spirit Study: Peace

~ We must fight for Peace

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." Philippians 4:6-9

When we choose to give God the troubles in our life, in exchange for His perfect peace, it leaves our minds open and empty of that worry, which is perfect room for lies and deception to come seeping through the cracks. That is why we must strive to think of the goodness in life and dwell on the Love of God, for if we forget to remember, we will think of anything. 

~ We must make Peace

     Definition of Peace:     freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility     freedom from or the cessation of war or violence freedom from civil disorder freedom from dispute or dissension between individuals or groupsNew Oxford American Dictionary

Peace is freedom from bad things.  Peace is freedom from bothersome noises, from horrible bloodshed, or angry arguments.  As children of God, we are called to live at peace with everyone (Hebrews 12:12) and to help to bring that freedom to the world. We must come ready to the battleground, having fought for our own peace, now prepared to bring about peace to the world. It's not world peace that we should strive for, that's an impossible task; we must look to offer a gentle serenity to the furious dissension around us.  

~ We must find Peace in every place

A king commissioned the finest artists in his land to paint him a picture of peace. One artist brought the king a beautiful painting of lush grass, blue sky, and gentle rolling landscapes.  Another artist brought a painting of lovely colors, gentle tones, and a quiet landscape in a little glen.  The last artist's painting was very different to the others, it was grey and rough, with a huge waterfall pouring down with much foam and rock.  But in the corner, tucked back behind the turbulent waterfall, was a mother bird on her nest...

We see peace in the first and second paintings, lovely, quiet...free from difficulty. But the third picture is the better choice for our own peace. We must teach ourselves to rely on God's infinite peace, no matter where we are or why. Peace is calm in the midst of trouble, and in the midst of trouble, we most need peace. It is like the eye of a hurricane; all about you is shrieking chaos and destruction, but in the eye, if you look up, you can see blue sky and gentle life. If God himself created the storm, we must trust him that there is peace in its midst. 

~ Peace in the midst of conflict

A man had a wife and four daughters.  He was a very successful businessman and he had everything he needed to provide for his family, but a fire was kindled and it burned his investments and property. With nothing in America, he decided to relocate back to his family in England. The night before they were to depart, the man was called to a business matter, so he sent his wife and daughters ahead. However, the ship that bore his family towards their new home was struck by another ship and many lives were lost, including all four of the man's daughters. His wife alone survived the journey and she sent her husband a telegram saying, "Saved alone."  

The man was devastated and he sailed to meet his wife with great sorrow. His own ship sailed over the wreckage of his daughters's watery grave and while on the boat, the man penned a famous hymn that has inspired and touched many today.  He wrote, "When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, 'It is well, it is well, with my soul.' "

This is the true story of Horatio Gates Spafford, a man most remembered for his beautiful song. Despite all that had happened to his wealth and family, Horatio didn't blame God, but looked to him for his peace and strength. He relied on God's love and plan for him, he praised God, despite the pain, and he found peace in the midst of conflict and sorrow.

...It is well, it is well, with my soul...

April 23, 2015

The Road Not Taken

The Road Not Taken
By Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both 
And be one traveler, long I stood 
And looked down one as far as I could 
To where it bent in the undergrowth;  

Then took the other, as just as fair, 
And having perhaps the better claim, 
Because it was grassy and wanted wear; 
Though as for that the passing there 
Had worn them really about the same,  

And both that morning equally lay 
In leaves no step had trodden black. 
Oh, I kept the first for another day! 
Yet knowing how way leads on to way, 
I doubted if I should ever come back.  

I shall be telling this with a sigh 
Somewhere ages and ages hence: 
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— 
I took the one less traveled by, 
And that has made all the difference.

April 21, 2015

Happy Birthday, Charlotte Brontë!

One of my favorite novelists in classic English literature is Charlotte Brontë, most commonly known for her work, Jane Eyre.  She was born on April 21, 1816, the third of six children.  Anne and Emily Brontë were her sisters that also published novels, and all three of them wrote under pen names.  Charlotte went on to publish four novels, but only Jane Eyre ever became popular.

“No sight so sad as that of a naughty child," he began, "especially a naughty little girl. Do you know where the wicked go after death?"
"They go to hell," was my ready and orthodox answer. 
"And what is hell? Can you tell me that?" 
"A pit full of fire."
"And should you like to fall into that pit, and to be burning there for ever?" 
"No, sir."
"What must you do to avoid it?" 
I deliberated a moment: my answer, when it did come was objectionable: "I must keep in good health and not die.” ~ Jane Eyre 

“Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilised by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.”  

“But life is a battle: may we all be enabled to fight it well!”  

“We know that God is everywhere; but certainly we feel His presence most when His works are on the grandest scale spread before us; and it is in the unclouded night-sky, where His worlds wheel their silent course, that we read clearest His infinitude, His omnipotence, His omnipresence.”  

“The human heart has hidden treasures, In secret kept, in silence sealed; The thoughts, the hopes, the dreams, the pleasures, Whose charms were broken if revealed.” 

“I'm just going to write because I cannot help it.”  

“Men judge us by the success of our efforts. God looks at the efforts themselves.” 

April 16, 2015

We Must Sail...

Apparently, I'm not the only one who has sea-fever...

“I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving - we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it - but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.” 
― Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

Pirate Dreams

Needles and pins, Needles and pins,
Sew me a sail to catch me the wind.
Sew me a sail strong as the gale,
Carpenter, bring out your hammers and nails.
Hammers and nails, hammers and nails,
Build me a boat to go chasing the whales.
Chasing the whales, sailing the blue
Find me a captain and sign me a crew.
Captain and crew, captain and crew,
Take me, oh take me to anywhere new.

― Shel Silverstein


I die but when the grave shall press
The heart so long endeared to thee
When earthy cares no more distress
And earthy joys are nought to me.

Weep not, but think that I have past
Before thee o'er the sea of gloom.
Have anchored safe and rest at last
Where tears and mouring can not come.

'Tis I should weep to leave thee here
On that dark ocean sailing drear
With storms around and fears before
And no kind light to point the shore.

But long or short though life may be
'Tis nothing to eternity.
We part below to meet on high
Where blissful ages never die.
― Emily Brontë

Bilbo’s Last Song

Day is ended, dim my eyes,
But journey long before me lies.
Farewell, friends! I hear the call.
The ship's beside the stony wall.
Foam is white and waves are grey;
Beyond the sunset leads my way.
Foam is salt, the wind is free;
I hear the rising of the Sea.

Farewell, friends! The sails are set,
The wind is east, the moorings fret.
Shadows long before me lie,
Beneath the ever-bending sky,
But islands lie behind the Sun
That I shall raise ere all is done;
Lands there are to west of West,
Where night is quiet and sleep is rest.

Guided by the Lonely Star,
Beyond the utmost harbour-bar,
I’ll find the heavens fair and free,
And beaches of the Starlit Sea.
Ship, my ship! I seek the West,
And fields and mountains ever blest.
Farewell to Middle-earth at last.
I see the Star above my mast!
― J.R.R. Tolkien

April 14, 2015

Dracula ~ A Book Review

Book By Bram Stoker
Review by Janelle A. Spiers

“Never did tombs look so ghastly white. Never did cypress, or yew, or juniper so seem the embodiment of funeral gloom. Never did tree or grass wave or rustle so ominously. Never did bough creak so mysteriously, and never did the far-away howling of dogs send such a woeful presage through the night.”
~ Bram Stoker, Dracula

“There are darknesses in life and there are lights, and you are one of the lights, the light of all lights.”
   ~ Bram Stoker, Dracula

WARNING:  Please be aware that if you continue reading this Book Review, you may be subject to reading spoilers and or secrets of the original book.  However, all attempts shall be made to hide the crucial points, in the event that this review encourages you to read this book.  Any information divulged will be deemed by the author of this review necessary to the review, or, not capable of ruining any major surprise. 

Bram Stoker wrote Dracula in 1897 and changed the fictional realm of horror forever.  Stoker’s haunting story of death, love, and fantasized monsters brings both inspiration and chills to the reader, thrusting them into a tale mixed to the brim with modern life and early European folklore.  Dracula has made such an impact in the literary world that Bram Stoker’s ideas have been used in many stories since that time.
Despite the grim circumstances and breath-taking drama, Dracula is a powerful story about good vs. evil.  The light of goodness, truth, and holiness are starkly and beautifully contrasted with the darkness of evil, lies, and horror.  Stoker wove a powerful, golden thread of redemption throughout his dark tapestry, so that no matter how dark the night or how desperate the character, there is always some hope left on which they can cling.  The idea of love being more powerful than fear is also present.  Each of the characters are challenged to decide how far they are willing to go for love for each other, and for life itself.
The unforgettable story begins with a man named Jonathan Harker travelling across the Carpathian Mountains to the castle of Count Dracula, where he will be helping with a legal affair.  After the frightening experience of trying to get to the secluded, mysterious castle, Jonathan finds himself the guest of an equally mysterious master.  As time passes, suspicion and fear begin to build, and Jonathan realizes that he is no longer a guest, but a prisoner; Dracula has locked him in the old castle.  A series of harrowing events plague Jonathan and he barely escapes with his life back to England where his fiancé awaits him.
But a long, arduous life has just begun for the heroes of this tale.  A shipwreck on the coast brings with it strange and deadly results and a young woman with sleepwalking issues suddenly begins to look more pale than usual.  With the help of two brilliant doctors and two other stout gentlemen, Harker and his newlywed wife, Mina, are faced with the fact that there is a mythical creature in their midst, and if they do not stop the threat, Dracula will destroy the world they know and love.
Jonathan Harker is a very steadfast, cool-headed man, but his encounter with Dracula and his eerie home leaves a great strain on him, especially when he thinks his life is at stake.  He spends the rest of the story with a burning passion to defeat the monster, but at the same time, he can lapse into a very weak and fearful state, typically more for his bride than himself.
Mina Harker is the faithful, “guiding star” for the men of this tale.  Her loyalty and compassion to her husband is equally, yet properly, shared with the other gentlemen who bond together to destroy Dracula.  When Mina is attacked by Dracula and her life takes a terrible turn, she longs to stay with those she loves, but she is willing to sacrifice herself in order to keep her friends safe.
Dr. Seward is a major piece of the puzzle and he is necessary to the destruction of Dracula.  He specializes in helping the insane and mentally disabled, and when one such man is found to be working for the Count, Seward manages to pry information from the man to help them in their conquest.
Perhaps the greatest protagonist is Abraham Van Helsing, a Dutch doctor and former teacher of Dr. Seward.  Van Helsing is the first one to discover what Dracula is and how he can be stopped, and despite the fact that no one believes him, he manages to prove Dracula’s true identity and the means to ending him.  Van Helsing is a quiet, thoughtful man with much faith and brain that ultimately result in the demise of Dracula.
Dracula himself is a creature of much discretion and sinister intent.  As a vampire, he is neither dead nor living, and is called “un-dead” as a result.  He preys on anyone and everyone but with so much secrecy that it is almost impossible to detect.  One of the most remarkable traits that Count Dracula possesses is that he is very patient and slow; with no fear of dying from old age, he has hundreds upon hundreds of years on his hands, and so every movement he makes is bold, but in no rush.
The writing style of Dracula is very unique.  Instead of constant narration, the entire book is split up into journal entries written by the main characters, gatherings of newspaper clippings, letters, telegrams, etc.  In addition, the ways the words are written or constructed vary, depending on which character is writing or recording.  However, on an overall note, the understandability of the story can be difficult, due to the older way of speaking and writing, also, based on the long, winding plot line and information that comes with it.
Abraham Stoker was born on November 8, 1847, in Dublin, Ireland, the third of seven children.  Stoker was bedridden for the first several years of his life from an unknown disease or illness, but by age seven, he was completely recovered and able to attend a private school; he never suffered from any major illness again.  In his early adulthood, Stoker married Florence Balcombe, who had been previously courted by his friend, Oscar Wilde.  The Stokers moved to London, where their only child was born, and Stoker became the theater manager for Henry Irving, a famous actor.  There he was introduced to notable people, such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and on traveling to America, president Theodore Roosevelt, William McKinley, and Walt Whitman.  Dracula was written in 1897, but never attracted much popularity until after his death on April 20, 1912.
Though the story and its characters are fascinating and enjoyable, some of the content may be unsuitable for young or sensitive readers.  There are a few instances of swearing, but they are mild and not used flippantly.  There is some romance between two couples without the book, but nothing intimate is ever recorded or hinted.  Several of the female vampires that appear in the story are described as intensely lovely and they act rather seductively in hopes of luring in prey, but the characters shun such creatures.
            The intensity of the story can be overwhelming.  Several beloved characters die, and one, who died a as a vampire, must be mutilated after death to keep her from attacking innocent children, which she had been doing.  Blood is a central theme and gory idea that fuels the story along, so it may be unpleasant to read.  There is also a mentally insane man who eats flies, spiders, birds, and wants to eat cats, as well, and his death may be distressing.
            The progression of Dracula’s stunning plot line is neat, concise and has left very little room for argumentation, barring the fact that vampires are works of fictitious imagination. All the characters, from gentle and graceful Mina to the intelligent and thoughtful Van Helsing are almost like living creatures that grow and live within the tale.  Bram Stoker has painted a breathing portrait of a world about to be undone by the un-dead.
            Dracula was not the first story about vampires, but by it, a path was forged through the uncharted territory of fiction that still progresses today.  One of Bram Stoker’s characters once said, “I want you to believe...to believe in things that you cannot.” Stoker tried to create a piece of far-fetched fiction into a tale that would seem so real it could bite you, and that is exactly what he did.   Dracula is an amazing, thrilling, haunting tale about the search for light in the darkest places, love in the most hopeless times, and peace from the dreaded monster, Count Dracula.  

(Based on a rating system entirely made up of pros and cons, I judge by different categories to ensure that the reader of this review can aptly choose if this book is an appropriate for themselves or others.)

Theme ~ Positive! (For excellent topics that are inspiring and applicable to life.)
Plot Line ~ Positive! (For a gripping, unmatched storyline)
Characters ~ Positive! (Very memorable and extremely consistent)
Writing Quality ~ Negative! (For difficult, archaic writing style)
Mature Content ~ Negative! (Intense and graphic sequences, more suitable for an older audience.)
Congruency ~ Positive! (For extreme consistency in plot, characters, and quality)

The total score for Dracula by Bram Stoker is 4 out of a possible 6 positive points.