Category Archives: Non-fiction

Horror Video Games Part 4: Clock Tower

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I remember seeing an article in a gaming magazine about Clock Tower for the PlayStation when it first came out. Just the words “clock tower” was enough to pique my interest but the pictures pinned the game into my mind. A young, dark-haired woman pursued by a maniac with a pair of very large, blood splattered scissors through a mansion.

 

 

I never got the chance to play Clock Tower for the PS but I was fortunate enough to come across the original on a SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System) emulator. The game was never originally released outside of Japan but through the hard work of international fans, the text has been translated and the game found its way into the hands of more people. Also PlayStation released a port of the game for the PS 1 in 1997, there is a PC version as well and can be downloaded in the original Japanese for Nintendo’s Virtual Console on Nintendo Japan’s website. But if you ever have the opportunity to play Clock Tower: The First Fear (as it has come to be known to distinguish it from the other Clock Tower game) then I recommend doing so for those of you who might like an old school survival horror game.

What Kind of Place Will We Be Living In

A collage of screen shots from the game

 

Jennifer Simpson is one of four orphan girls being adopted by the Barrows family. She arrives at the mansion with the other girls, Ann, Laura and Lotte and their adoptive mother, Mary Barrows. The girls speculate about the house as Mary leaves to fetch her husband. As they talk, the girls realize that Mary has been absent for an unusually long time and Jennifer offers to find her. Shortly after entering the hallway, Jennifer hears a scream and rushes back to the parlor only to find the room empty.

 

 

Inspecting the rooms in search of her friends can yield different results. In the first floor bathroom, there is a chance of finding the room thick with steam. Throwing aside the shower curtain, Laura is discovered hanging by her hands, dead. But that is not the only surprise, for a young man erupts from the bath water wielding a giant pair of scissors and starts stalking Jennifer.

 

 

Of course, the first encounter with Bobby Barrows/the Scissorman could be in second foyer instead. Upon entering that room, the stained glass dome bursts and Bobby is seen with his scissors embedded in Ann’s torso as the pair plummets to the floor.

 

 

Jennifer is not in the position to fight back. Unarmed, she’s no match for Bobby. However, in a pinch, mashing the panic button can save her life if she is struggling with the murderer. Jennifer pushes Bobby back and is able to escape. And escape is the object of this game. It is truly about survival.

 

 

Hiding is the best option and the Barrows Mansion has many hiding places. My heart thunders as Jennifer scrabbles over boxes to hide behind an old wardrobe or scurry under a bed. Moments later, Bobby enters, snapping together the blades of his scissors. He paces, confused before leaving, disappointed. But Jennifer cannot stay put long, Bobby has an uncanny ability to spring up when least expected, even in a hiding place.

 

 

Bobby isn’t the only danger found in the mansion. In one bedroom, there is a mirror where Jennifer’s reflection can reach out and strangle her to death. The same room has a potentially homicidal parrot. A hallway in one of the wings has weak floor boards and if Jennifer is running, she can fall through and it’s game over. A key pocketed in the nursery wakes a demonic doll that flies around Jennifer, finally attacking the girl and killing her unless the panic button is mashed.

 

 

Finding Mary in one of the rooms can spawn one of two events. She either tries to comfort Jennifer with a one-armed hug (there’s a knife hidden behind her back) or offers to soothe the girl with a drink. If it’s the drink, you better hope and pray Jennifer has picked up the ham because Jennifer wakes to find herself in a cage with a very hungry Simon Barrows, Mary’s husband. I didn’t during one game and now I have to start over. Every time I load the save file, Jennifer is attacked and eaten by Simon.

 

 

And then there is Dan, Bobby’s brother. He has to be encountered to finish the game. Jennifer finds him underground in a secret area. Dan is revealed behind red velvet curtains, a deformed and gigantic, infantile creature that chases Jennifer. Scrabbling up a hill, Jennifer accidently knocks over a fuel barrel and Dan combusts. From there, it’s an elevator ride to the clock tower and the final meeting between Jennifer, Bobby and Mary.

 

 

This game has a lot of variables, capable of unlocking a list of endings. Sometimes Jennifer is the lone survivor, gazing out over the land as the sun rises, other times she is joined by one (or several) of her friends. Sometimes, Jennifer doesn’t survive at all. It depends on what is done, which rooms are gone into at certain times, what items are inspected or picked up. Freeing the crows in one room never hurts; they swoop in to aid Jennifer at a crucial moment. There are surprises and seemingly random events. Clock Tower: The First Fear is never a dull game.

 

Additional Information and Fun Facts:

 

  • Clock Tower was one of the first survival horror games along with Alone in the Dark series, Project Firestart, Night Trap, The 7th Guest, Doctor Hauzer, D, Phantasmagoria, and The 11th Hour.
  • The game was said to be based on the 1985 Dario Argento’s movie Phenomena starring Jennifer Connelly. Reading the film’s description, I have to say that there are similarities.
  • A Hollywood script for a film adaptation of the game series has been passed around several times but as of now, it has fallen into the depths of script purgatory.
  • Clock Tower has spawned three sequels and several spin-off games as well as inspiring several more.
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Horror Video Games Part 3: Resident Evil

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Resident Evil is one of my all time favorite video games series. I love abandoned places and zombies, puzzles and experiments gone terribly wrong. And the first several games in the series combine those elements well. There are a LOT of RE games and spin-offs/side games in the series, some of which I haven’t played or have even heard of before doing a little research for this post. So I’ll only talk about the first game since I could easily go on for hours.

Resident Evil/Resident Evil: Director’s Cut/ Resident Evil Archives

The first game of the series was released in 1996, but was rereleased as a director’s cut and later remade. Resident Evil Archives contains the same plot of the original but with added rooms and areas, the introduction of several new (non-playable) characters, one of whom is Lisa. Her story is a heartbreaking thread woven into the plot but she is also very, very scary.

There was an incident involving a series of cannibalistic murders in the area surrounding Raccoon City and the S.T.A.R.S. (Special Tactical And Rescue Team) Bravo team is sent in to investigate. After contact is lost with Bravo, the Alpha team is sent in. Set down, the team becomes separated as a pack of very strange dogs appear (if you’ve seen the movie, they look like those) and start chasing them. A handful of the members manage to make it to a mansion located nearby. Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Barry Burton and Albert Wesker.

 

You can play as either Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine. Both have their own special tool that is unique to them, although (if memory serves me right) either one of them can also pick up the other’s item but it takes up space in the item carrier. And believe you me that space is at a premium. Excess items can be stored in item boxes (they look like large, wooden trunks) scattered throughout the area. Any room with an item box is a safe room. You cannot and will not be attacked there. It’s a good place to heal; exchange items and save, using a typewriter.

 

 

The objective is to the explore the mansion and the surrounding grounds, gleaning information about what has happened on memos, reading journal entries and reports. One of my favorite entries to read is the groundskeeper’s journal (again if I remember correctly). The last page reads simply: “Itchy. Tasty.”

 

 

Foes range from zombies, which are encountered almost from the first to a giant, poisonous snake that you have to fight twice. Genetically engineered creatures also appear. The Hunters are large, almost gorilla-like animals that have a very annoying and startling screech. The first time I played this game, my brother was watching me play and we experienced the first encounter with a Hunter at the same time. There was a lot of screaming involved. They remain my least favorite foe. Sharks (Project Neptune, and thank you Umbrella for giving me another reason besides Jaws to be afraid to go into the water), crows, dogs, snakes (little ones), and large spiders also make an appearance because zombies just weren’t enough to scare you out of your pants, I guess.

 

 

As you explore, you move further and further into Umbrella’s secret facility. The mansion is only a front; the out buildings housed a laboratory, Project Neptune and a mutated plant. Beneath the courtyard, a series of tunnels lead to an underground facility. It’s here that all the pieces of the puzzle regarding the nature of Umbrella’s experiments come together to form a whole, and disturbing picture. It’s also where Tyrant is housed, and he’s the game’s last boss. Tyrant stands about seven or eight feet tall (my estimate) and is muscular. He is a single-minded, hunting/killing machine, and nerve-wracking to fight.

 

 

Resident Evil is the only game in the series to have multiple endings. They depend on decisions made at certain moments. The endings and the fact that you get a closet key make the game playable several times and always fun to return to.

Horror Video Games Part 2: Dino Crisis

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Jurassic Park meets Resident Evil? There is probably a much better way of describing this game but this one works for me, since I love both RE and Jurassic Park. 😀

Made by Capcom and produced/directed by RE’s creator Shinji Mikami, Dino Crisis has a distinct Resident Evil aura. Both games have an almost claustrophobic feel to some of their environments (i.e. narrow hallways) and dark atmosphere, they also have puzzle solving elements, which I love in a game. Plus there is  science gone wrong.

Regina is the main character. She’s one member of a special forces team sent to a secret government facility to find Dr. Edward Kirk, who was thought to be dead. He was discovered during a recon mission by another SORT (Secret Operation Raid Team) member, Tom. Dr. Kirk was the head of a secret weapons team, creating something called Third Energy which ripped a hole in the fabric of time. Hence the dinosaurs and all the survival, run-for-your-life fun.

Regina and her fellow SORT team members (Cooper, Gail and Rick) parachute onto the island. During the decent, Cooper goes off course and becomes a T-Rex snack. His whereabouts remain a mystery to the others. Exploring the facility, several mangled and chewed bodies are discovered and the SORT agents are clueless as to what happened to the scientists until Regina encounters a dinosaur.

From that moment on, the game is all about surviving as you try to find a way off the island. Dinosaurs are everywhere, velociraptors roaming the hallways and a T-Rex that stalks you along outside passages and bursts through windows. Ammo and health items are key (as they are in RE), you run out of either and it could be the last mistake you make.

Four possible endings can be played out, depending on what is chosen at specific times. Each ending unlocks a new outfit for Regina, one of them a very cute, almost Pebbles Flintstone type dress complete with a bone gun. If you complete the game in under five hours, a mini game is unlocked (American version, only, I think) called Operation: Wipeout. This is a game with limited ammo in which the point is to bag a certain amount of dinosaurs during an allotted time.

Though short, Dino Crisis has just enough material to provide re-playability and has very tense moments. But it also has lighter moments, which gives it an excellent balance in my opinion. The characters are well done, each having their own personality. Gail is no nonsense, and tough as nails, Rick is more laid back and the team’s comedian while Regina is in the middle, sharing the best qualities of her teammates.

I think Dino Crisis might be a good game to start with if you’re interested in trying a survival horror game. It’s a little more panic inducing than outright scary but still an entertaining member of the genre.

 

Horror Video Games Part 1: Castlevania N64

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I am a gamer, have been since first playing games on the Atari system when I was a kid. My first horror game was Friday the 13th on the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) and I remember playing it with my heart in my throat. Jason, in all his pixelated glory, was a near unbeatable foe. I never could survive an encounter with him. But, I think it was Castlevania for the N64 that woke a deep love for horror games in me.

Castlevania

The opening of this game still excites me, a sweeping view of a grand castle and the strains of a haunting and melancholy tune played on a violin by Malus. There are two playable characters: Reinhardt Schneider and Carrie Fernandez. Each have their own special weapons. Reinhardt has a whip and a dagger, while Carrie has magic orbs that home in on targets and a set of rings.

They share the same adventure, trekking through the Forest of Silence, the Castle Wall and then the Villa but then diverges to separate levels unique to one character. Some levels can only be accessed through Carrie (i.e. the Underground Waterway) or Reinhardt (i.e. the Tunnels). Others are shared. There are also several different endings that can be unlocked. That makes this game have a great re-playability.

I love the atmosphere. Dark, tense and horrifying. Time slips from day to night, which is important to some aspects of the game. There is blood and implements of torture, supernatural foes and some very disturbing bosses. But there is also beauty to be found in Castlevania. One of my favorite levels is the Villa.

The Villa is reached after completing the Castle Wall area and fighting several Cerberuses. A timeworn cemetery greets you as you pass through the Villa gates, some of the tombstones still retain their epitaphs and are readable. Entering the Villa, you find yourself in a large foyer with a staircase. Exploring the house, a small indoor garden can be found. Red roses encircle the room. If the time is right, you’ll meet Rosa. She is the garden’s caretaker, responsible for the white roses. What white roses? There aren’t any but as the scene progresses, we learn the reason why. Rosa waters them with blood.

A maze lies behinds the Villa and it’s here that you meet Malus, a frightened boy that has lost his family. This part never fails to make my heart race. In order to help Malus, you must follow him through the maze while being chased by a large creature reminiscent of Frankenstein’s creature wielding a chainsaw and two hellhounds. I can still hear Malus’s scared “Help me!” and the revving of the chainsaw in my head.

As Reinhardt, one of the most memorable moments is entering the Tunnels, a labyrinth of seemingly endless pathways. Shortly after discovering a poisonous river, a scantily clad woman emerges from the murky depths, her arms chastely covering her chest. Walking toward Reinhardt, more of her is seen. Below her waist is the body of a spider. These spider women are the dominate foes of the level, gliding down from the Tunnel ceilings, skittering toward you from the shadows and spewing poison whenever they get the chance.

The Castle Center provides a harrowing challenge. To release the seal and fight the boss, two ingredients are needed. One is mandrake, the other magical nitro and it’s with the nitro that comes all the fun. One jump, one slip from an edge or a hit from the traps or enemies and you explode. Playing through this, my hands shake every time. Once the seal is broken, a massive bull awakens. As you battle him, his flesh falls from his body, leaving only a gigantic skeleton until you defeat him.

Castlevania has left a lasting impression on me. From entering the Forest of Silence to fighting the incarnations of Dracula, it has held endless fascination and frustration. At times creepy and beautiful to downright scary (there’s a statue in the Castle Center that weeps blood which then becomes a monster), it is a game I return to again and again.

 

 

 

 

Of Many Things

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Hello.

I have been without internet for roughly 500 years. Okay, since June but it feels like a very long, long time. I missed my blogaversary and the release of Romantic Ruckus which contains my story, “Lingering”. I also missed a great deal of your posts, and I intend to at least catch up on some of them, if not all. My inbox is ridiculous and intimidating, there’s enough in there to keep me busy reading for months.

Dreaming Blithely has turned a year old. It’s hard to believe I’ve been sharing my thoughts and fiction with you all for that long. It has passed by so quickly. And I’m happy to have found such a great community of bloggers. Thank you for making me feel at home.

Here are some interesting stats of the last year:

Top 3 Countries with the most views

US 616
United Kingdom 120
Canada 112

October was the busiest month at 216 views

Top 3 Posts

Home Page/ Archives 441
About 53
Love Stories Part 1: Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy  41

Top 3 Search Terms

7 Nights of Darkness
Elizabeth Bennet stories
Love stories Severus and Lily Darcy Elizabeth Jane Eyre Rochester

Interesting Search terms

@moanarabella
osb nun love story

 

Back in late November/early December, I sent in a quirky little love story by the name of “Lingering” to Strange Musings Press. Much to my surprised delight, it was accepted for inclusion in their anthology, Romantic Ruckus, stories of love gone hilariously wrong. Since I couldn’t do much in the way of promoting the anthology when the Kickstarter campaign began and then after its initial release, I’d like to talk a little about it now.

The opening line came to me first, part of a conversation my MC, Gabe was having with her husband about her ability to talk to the dead. You see, Adam didn’t believe her gift was real until after his death. Haunted by Adam, Gabe didn’t feel the need to date until a charming customer enters her life. As she prepares to move on, Adam grows protective and a rather strange love triangle forms. If I may say so without sounding like I’m tooting my own horn, “Lingering” is a funny and sweet story. It is one of my favorites, unlike anything I’ve written before.

If the anthology seems like something you’d be interested in, check it out. I think clicking the link to see the awesome and hilarious cover is worth it alone.

Again, I’d like to thank you all for spending time with me and stopping by my humble blog over the past year. It truly has been a joy to get to know you. 🙂

 

 

 

Short Story Spotlight: The Grammarian’s Five Daughters

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Growing up, I was never into short story anthologies. I read Goosebumps, Choose Your Own Adventure books, various novels, and the works of Shel Silverstein. And as a young adult, I went through a Stephen King phase, reading about anything of his that I could get my hands on. Which included his short story collections. And that’s when, I think, I discovered the magic of the form. Short stories were, and still are, a box of chocolate to me. Each story was a different flavor and texture, some nuttier than others and some containing a delicious surprise that was unexpected but thoroughly enjoyable.

About ten years ago, or more, my brother gave me The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror: The Thirteenth Annual Collection, edited by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow. Inside is gathered the stories of many talented writers, the tales steeped in shades of magic or probing the darkness. It is a delight to read, and every so often the volume calls to me from my bookshelf and I once more lose myself within its pages.

One of my favorites, and it so difficult to choose (which is why I will list some more favorites at the end of this post) is The Grammarian’s Five Daughters  by Eleanor Arnason. This story is whimsical, part fairy tale and part grammar lesson, both beautiful and charming. If interested, you can read it here The Grammarian’s Five Daughters

And as threaten–uh, promised, here are some of my other favorites:

  • Crosley by Elizabeth Engstrom
  • The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse by Susanna Clarke
  • Halloween Street by Steve Rasnic Tem
  • Darkrose and Diamond by Ursula K.Le Guin
  • The Girl Detective by Kelly Link
  • Harlequin Valentine by Neil Gaiman
  • You Don’t Have to Be Mad by Kim Newman

 

Do you read short stories and what are some of your favorites?

7 Nights of Darkness: A Low Budget Horror Movie

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7 Nights of Darkness is one of my favorite horror movies, though those of you who are familiar with it might think I’m a little crazy. It is a low budget movie made in 2011 by Allen Kellogg who also stars as Carter (one of my favorite characters, by the way). The special effects are a little crappy (and I say that with complete love of the movie), but still effective, except for the part where Lina (strapped into the lobotomy chair) is being taunted by Randy and her face turns into a computerized greenish sort of screaming expression which I think is supposed to be the ghost possessing her. Still, I did scream at that part the first time I watched this movie.

The movie is about 6 people doing a reality show. They must spend 7 nights in an abandoned asylum and complete the given tasks in order to split the 1 million dollar prize money. It sort of reminds me of that old MTV show (I think it was on MTV) Fear, where people took cameras and ghost-hunting equipment into empty hospitals, prisons and asylums. Anyway, back to the movie.

Odd things start to happen, a bucket comes flying out of nowhere, a baby is heard crying in the middle of the night in an empty bassinette, maggots appear on pizza, and these occurrences wear on the nerves of the contestants. The above mentioned possession of Lina scares the hell out of Randy, and he tries convincing the others to leave with him. When that fails, he asks them to at least help him get Lina (once more catatonic after the brief screaming incident) out. They agree but when they enter Randy and Lina’s room, they find the lobotomy chair empty. Lina is gone. One by one, the contestants disappear until only Carter and Brooke remain.

I think the reasons why this movie is a favorite and effectively scary is that it uses several tried and true horror movie elements. Jump scares, atmosphere, tension-building and disturbing (okay, maybe unnerving is a better word) scenes. It also employs several elements that can be found in other horror movies, namely The Ring, The Grudge, with just a dash of House on Haunted Hill thrown in for good measure.

If you are a fan of straight-to-DVD movies, (or creepy ghost girls and dolls) I recommend that you check out 7 Nights of Darkness. I don’t think you’ll be too disappointed. And make sure you watch through the credits, there a bit of a surreal bonus scene that’s worth watching.

What low budget movies are your favorites?

 

The Trouble with Technology

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I have spotty internet but for the most part, it’s usually reliable. For last two weeks, my computer has not wanted to connect to the internet or maybe the internet didn’t want to connect to my computer. I’m not really sure, however the war has ended and they are now on talking terms which makes me happy.

I just wanted you all to know that I’m doing my best to get caught up on the blogs I follow. It may take a couple of days.

Also, fiction won the most votes so the next post will be a short story. Thank you all for participating and helping me out. 🙂 I really appreciate it.

Fiftieth Post Looming! Help!

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Dreaming Blithely

Okay, I like celebrating milestones. And I’m nearing my 50th post here, which is pretty exciting in my opinion. So, in preparation for the event, I thought it would be kind of fun to gather the opinions of all of you. What would you like to see to commemorate the occasion?

Categories

Non-fiction Folklore/Fairytales: This would be a post about creatures of folklore, perhaps about one that might be little known or a post on fairytales their impact on fiction, not only my own work but the work of others.

Book Review: I freaking LOVE books. I could talk about books for a very long, long time, lol.

Fiction/Short Story: I’ll write one that incorporates the number 50 in some way. That might be fun. 🙂

Movies: As those of you who have endured my horror movies posts back in October know, I love movies. I could do one on favorite genre movies. Fantasy, science fiction and action.

Non-fiction Writing/Genres: A post about genres in fiction, my favorite stories, writing influences and all that jazz.

Whichever topic is chosen, I promise to try to make it interesting. 🙂 And thank you all! I really appreciate the thoughtful comments you have made and interacting with you here.

Love Stories Part 3: Sayuri, Nobu and the Chairman

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Memoirs of a Geisha is a beautifully written novel by Arthur Golden which was made into a visually stunning movie directed by Rob Marshall. I enjoyed both versions immensely.

Chiyo and her sister, Satsu, are sold by their father as it becomes apparent that their mother’s health is rapidly deteriorating. He is not a young man, either, and while this might seem to be a callous thing to do, I believe he hoped to give them a better life. However, it doesn’t work out for Satsu as well as it does for Chiyo. The sisters are split, Satsu fated for a brothel and Chiyo handed over to Mother, head of the Nitta okiya.

It’s not an easy life for Chiyo. She agrees to become an apprentice geisha, attending school with her friend, Pumpkin. From the first moment they met, Hatsumomo dislikes Chiyo, perhaps sensing the girl as a future rival. As the leading geisha, making the most money, Hatsumomo is in a position of power and she makes it her mission to make life hell for Chiyo, especially after Chiyo catches Hatsumomo in a clandestine affair with someone beneath the geisha’s status. Chiyo confesses to Mother about discovering the affair and Hatsumomo is forbidden from seeing Koichi, her lover, ever again. Unable to endure Hatsumomo’s cruelty, Chiyo plans to runaway with Satsu. However, the night she was to meet Satsu, Chiyo falls from the roof of the okiya in her attempt to escape, incurring Mother’s anger and even more debt that must be worked off. Chiyo is also no longer allowed to be trained as a geisha.

Years pass. Chiyo’s life is one of a servant, she runs errands and does chores while Pumpkin continues her education. One day, Chiyo meets a business man, known as the Chairman, who cheers her up by purchasing shaved ice and gives her a handkerchief with money in it. From that moment on, Chiyo vows to become a geisha in order to be in the Chairman’s life. Filled with purpose, Chiyo donates the money to a shrine and prays. She keeps the handkerchief as a memento.

Not long after, in what seems to be an act of fate, Chiyo becomes an apprentice to the popular geisha, Mameha, and her training begins once more. With the transition of becoming a geisha, Chiyo is given the name Sayuri, and she is introduced into geisha society and customers. Her heart soars when, after so many years, she once more meets the Chairman. Sayuri feels that finally she will be with the man she loves. As Sayuri starts making her rounds to teahouses and accompanying Mameha to events, she catches the eye of several men, one being the Chairman’s friend, Nobu.

In order not to spoil this novel for those of you who haven’t read it, I won’t venture into detail but I do want to say that as the novel progresses, a triangle between Nobu, Sayuri and the Chairman forms, one that really tore at my heart. I rooted for one, wanting Sayuri to find the happiness that she deserved but there came a part, near the end where I was sure she was making the wrong choice. I was so involved that I yelled at the book and tossed it onto my nightstand where I glared at it for several minutes before picking it and continued reading. I will also state that I was very happy with the end.

Memoirs of a Geisha is a beautiful novel, feeling like a fairytale and a true memoir. Arthur Golden created a truly captivating story, one not easy to put down and I highly recommend reading it if you haven’t done so already.

This concludes my Love Stories series, I hope you all have enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it and sharing my favorite fictional love stories with you. 🙂 Happy Valentine’s Day to you all.