Let The Right One In vs Let Me In

This book has been sat waiting patiently on my bookshelf for some time but when Hubby downloaded the movie version, ‘Let Me In’, I had to read the book (I have a rule where the book has to be read first before the movie is watched – Do other readers share this ‘obsession’ too, I wonder?)  The book is a chunky 500+ pages but I got through them pretty quickly as it’s a good story which demands to be read.

In the book, we meet awkward pre-adolescent Oskar who has very few friends and is bullied mercilessly at school by a particular group of boys.  He lives with his mother and very rarely sees his father due to the reasons why his father left his mother (hinted at but made clear in the book but not referred to at all in the movie.)  Eli and who-is-a- first-assumed-to-be her father move in to the apartment next door. One night, Eli and Oskar meet in the playground outside their block and start talking.  Eli tells him from the start that they can never be friends but Oskar sees her as an ally and little by little, a strange but necessary friendship does develop between them.

This ‘friendship’ is equally disturbing and yet moving.  We piece together Eli’s story and what she actually is (you know this is a vampire story, right?) and more importantly, who her ‘father’ is and what he has to do.  This aspect of the book almost forms its’ own storyline as does that of a group of local ‘drunks’ (for want of a better word) and the direct impact Eli moving into their town has on them.  I really enjoyed this by-line actually and wanted more.  For reasons only known to themselves, the producers decided to omit these characters from the movie version completly, so for those of you who have only seen the movie, I strongly advise you to read the book as it is so much more complex and full-filling than its’ screen version.

This is turning into quite a lengthy review so I’ll stop now and leave you with a little quote from the book, which seems to highlight what the story is about as well as portraying the simple beauty of Oskar and Eli’s relationship.

“Are there a lot of you?”

“What do you mean?”

“You know.”

“No, I don’t.”

Oskar’s gaze roamed the ceilings, trying to locate more cobwebs.  Found two.  Thought he saw a spider crawling on one of them.  He blinked.  Blinked again.  Eyes full of sand.  No spider.

“What do I call you then?  This thing that you are?”

“Eli.”

6

As often seems to happen, as soon as I see something ‘new’, I end up seeing it everywhere! This recently happened to me with Anne of Green Gables and I sensed it happening again with ‘6’ by Karen Tayleur, after seeing one of my son’s friend’s reading it and then seeing a display of the author’s books a week later during a high school tour I went on recently.  ‘6’ is a YA book (and I think, too ‘mature’ for an 11 year old to be reading but I guess I was reading Stephen King and other adult books at the same age.)  The synopsis is as follows:

One car.

One after-party.

Six people, six points of view.

One outcome.

So it’s fairly easy to decipher what the book is about but you don’t actually get to ‘the accident’ until the end of the book and then in a slightly chilling way.  I read this book with visions of my too-soon-to-be teenage sons and the prospect just fills me with dread. Some teenagers make stupid decisions as this book highlights.  There are certain characters in the book who you just want to scream at and shake to make them see how thoughtless and cruel they are being.  Others get your sympathy (and tissues!)

This was an ‘easy-read’ book, despite the horror of the content.  What added to the creepiness of ‘6’ was that each chapter, instead of having a title, had a quote from a Nursery Rhyme.  This was very clever, I felt, as not only did it fit with what was happening in that particular chapter but also reminded the reader that the characters in the story were listening to and enjoying those infantile poems not that long ago and are still children.  Pretty clever on the author’s part.  I have Karen Tayleur’s other YA book, ‘Hostage’ borrowed from my local Library to read too, which I’m looking forward to.

Anne of Green Gables

Awhile ago, I had an eyebrow raised at me by a friend when I said that I had never read, watched or even knew much about, Anne of Green Gables.  As quite often seems to happen to me – and other people too, I assume? – once I start thinking about something, I seem to see it everywhere.  This was certainly true with Anne of Green Gables, which I take as a good omen and one that is telling me to read the book(s)!

It started when I was supervising a test at my son’s school, which happened to be in their library, where I just happened to be sitting next to a shelf where there was an old copy of Anne of Green Gables, just calling out to me!

Later that day, whilst browsing an online bookshop, I came across an Anne book, which matched the series of children’s books that I have been slowly collecting, so had to order it straight away, of course!

To finish the ‘Anne messages’ I have been receiving, I was browsing around the Kindle Store on Charlotte and found all eight (there are 8?!  That was a big surprise to me!) books for a measly 99cents, so these were downloaded pronto too.

I started reading the Kindle version of Anne as soon as I got it but found it was too much of a ‘comfort’, nostalgic read that it seemed wrong to be reading it on such a new, technologically-advanced device.  I found my brand new ‘Classic Puffin Paperback’ – as much as I love the front cover and foreword by one of my fave children’s authors, Lauren Child – just ‘too’ new and crisp, so decided to sneak back into my son’s school library and borrow the well-thumbed, musty smelling, stained and bent paged 1964 version.  Shh!.. don’t tell the school Librarian!

Oh, the comfort!  To Avonlea I go…

Two Weeks’ Notice – Rachel Caine

I was VERY excited to pick up a mystery parcel from our Village Store* which was an unexpected but much welcomed advance copy of Rachel Caine’s ‘Two Weeks Notice’ – Thank you, Heidi McCourt from The Penguin Group.

*I recently moved into a lovely little (emphasis on ‘little’) part of Australia – drive past, blink and you miss it.  There is no parcel delivery up here so you have to go to its one and only shop to pick up any parcels or large mail items.  Love it!  Anyway, I digress…

Rachel Caine is the author of the popular YA series, ‘Morganville Vampires’ (as yet, unread by me.)  Her new series, entitled ‘Revivalist’ is more adult in nature as it features an undead funeral parlour owner fighting against the corporate company who murdered her and then brought her back to life through the use of an illegal, experimental drug known as Returne.  The problem I had with this book – and not the books fault in the slightest – was that Bryn obtained her ‘undead’ status in the first book and as ‘Two Weeks’ Notice’ is the sequel, there were parts of it and certain characters which would have been more meaningful to me had I known more about them.

Bryn herself is likeable as is her boyfriend, Patrick despite the ‘ickiness’ of her being dead and him not.  Together they form a support group to help other Returne addicts and this is where they come across more unsavoury ‘zombies’ than Bryn.  She has to fight for her life (undead as it is already!) on more than one occasion and the book ends in such a way that you know there is much more fighting to be done in the future.

I enjoyed this book and will be reading the first in the series, ‘Working Stiff’ to shed more light on the whole Returne thing and what Bryn was like as a character before her heartbeat stopped!

The Sisters Brothers

I see Patrick deWitt’s brilliant book as ‘Pulp Fiction’ meet Annie Proulx!  It has cowboys, Indians, gold, prospectors (I’ve never read or seen a movie with prospectors so I kept visualising Stinky Pete in my head!) and murders and dodgy deals aplenty.  The story is set in 1851 and tells the story of Charlie and Eli Sisters, two notorious hit-men working for a man known only as the Commodore.

Their story is told through the younger brother, Eli’s eyes.  Eli is by far the better narrator as he isn’t as bent on destruction and killing as his brother.  Through Eli’s eyes, we see how the life they live is impacting on all those around them and we feel and hear Eli’s regrets and yearning for a better, simpler life.  The two brothers are alike in so many way but also poles apart, and like all siblings, they bicker with each other.  These petty arguments add some light, comic relief to what is otherwise a grim, dark story.

Charlie poured me a drink, when normally we pour own own, so I was prepared for bad news when he said it: ‘I’m to be lead man on this one, Eli.’

‘Who says so?’

‘Commodore says so.’

I drank my brandy. ‘What’s it mean?’

‘It means I am in charge.’

‘What’s it mean about money?’

‘More for me.’

‘My money, I mean. Same as before?’

‘It’s less for you.’

‘I don’t see the sense in it.  It doesn’t make sense.’

‘Well, it does.’

He poured me another drink and I drank it.

‘It’s bad business…  and stop pouring for me like I’m an invalid.’  I took the bottle away and asked about the specifics of the job.”

I loved this book and really felt like I’d stepped back in time.  Their way of life was exhausting and I’m surprised anyone survived this cruel,’ wild west’ era.  Eli Sisters is a great character as are his brother and the other characters we meet in the book, including the elusive prospector, Herman Kermit Warm, who is their current ‘job.’  If you haven’t yet met the Sisters brothers, I urge you to do so pretty pronto!  You won’t be disappointed…

Prospector Pete!

The Proof of Love – Catherine Hall

As soon as I heard that this book was set in a remote, rural village in 1970’s Britain, I knew I had to read it as I find this type of setting very nostalgic and this type of books a real ‘comfort read.’ The book is set in the Lake District, whereas I grew up on the small island of Ynys Mon off the North coast of Wales but it reminded me a lot of my childhood where I was also the only child living on a small farm, just like Alice in this story.

Alice is not the main character of the story but a great deal of the novel centres around her.  She lives with her mother, father and Uncle, a traditional hard-working farming family.  During the heatwave that was the summer of 1976 in Britain, a young mathematician from Cambridge (as far and strange a world away from the rural setting he crashes into as if he had come from another world entirely) turns up at Alice’s farm looking for work for the summer.  Alice immediately dotes on him as he becomes her unlikely ally and friend but the rest of the close, small-knit community eye him with suspicion and treat him very much as the outcast.

We, as the reader, know that Spencer is hiding something and isn’t keen to be welcomed into the community anyway but as life on the farm starts to weave its’ spell over him, he becomes more and more attached to the few friends he does make and we are compellingly drawn into his life and story.  However, little by little, the reader starts to see the bigger picture opening up and a feeling of unease starts to creep up your spine… You start to see things unravelling before Spencer does and you are powerless to help.  You just sit there, eagerly turning the pages but with a sense of dread too, right up into the final, devastating end.

I loved this book and regret that I borrowed it from my local Library and didn’t actually buy my own copy as I can see myself revisiting it again at some stage.

Diving Belles

I am not usually one for short stories but when I read a review of Lucy Wood’s collection on Savidge Reads, I decided to give it a go.  On the whole, I enjoyed the book but didn’t like all the stories within it.  The first story in the book is the one that gave the collection it’s name and is about mermaids.  Now, I like mermaids and all sorts of mythical creatures so my initial reaction was, “Great, I’m going to love this” but unfortunately, my only reaction when I go to the end of the first story was,”Oh, now I remember why I don’t like short stories.”  I hate how they just ‘end’ and I’m sorry but I just don’t ‘get’ them.

However, I did like Lucy Wood’s style of writing in that first story and I knew the other stories were also about magic and other realms so I had to persevere.  The second  story is called ‘Countless Stones’ and is set in a small coastal town where some of the inhabitants – and it’s not clear why – turn to stone at certain times in their lives.  I loved this story and found the writing atmospheric and beautiful.

“It was a struggle to walk now.  It was a struggle to breath.  Her legs grated together and her hips didn’t rotate… She felt exhausted.  She could feel the clicks of stone against stone as her shoulders seized up and turned rigid.  She made sure she was facing out to sea.  Breathing stopped, but there was a different type of breathing. She let her thoughts wander…”

I didn’t enjoy all the stories as much as I did the second one but there were some gems in this book. One of my two personal favourites tells of the daughter who goes to visit her mother after realising that she has been neglecting her – “The late birthday card you sent is behind a banana magnet on the fridge… Your handwriting is terrible – rushed and sprawling like dropped stitches. Sorry I couldn’t make it in the end, you know what it’s like, work, work, work, meeting…” – but walks in to find her mother  talking to herself and stroking her shoulders.   The daughter finds some eye cream in the bathroom which she puts on her own eyes before bedtime, only to realise that she can now see all the things that she always thought were just her Mum’s ‘quirky, odd ways’, like keeping vases filled with water but no flowers (now she can see flowers in those vases, and

“There is a hand on her shoulder and it isn’t your hand.  There is a man with his hand on your mother’s shoulder.  He is shorter than her and has dark, curly hair.  He is wearing a waistcoat… made from a strange material that sometimes looks green and sometimes looks silver.  The man stays close to your mother as she tells you about the lunch she is going to cook.  Without pausing, she puts her arm behind her back and the man in the green waistcoat holds it.  She does this so smoothly, so naturally, that you realise it is something she has been doing for a long time.”

My other favourite is one about House Elves (very Harry Potter, so a guaranteed cert with me!)  The story, or ‘notes’ are told through their eyes and span decades and generations of a house’s inhabitants.  We learn that they don’t like children who break the house but miss their noises; they don’t like musical instruments but loved the sound made by the piano; they are fickle, opinionated, grumpy but also caring, lonely and funny.  Oh, and they don’t like cats – they wouldn’t like my house then!

“They have put up a shelf and they have done it badly.  It is going to fall off.  We know it is going to fall off.  We can feel the screws loosening millimetre by millimetre.  We knock off a book, then another book, to try to make them notice.  They don’t notice.  The man picks up one of the books and reads loud from it. ‘Listen to this,’ he says. We listen.”

“We have seen cats before. They stare at us and bristle.  We don’t like them.  We have seen children before.  They move around so quickly that we can’t keep track of which room they are in.”

“The boy makes louder noises and puts more weight on the floorboards and stairs: bang bang bang.  One day he disappears… We can’t find him anywhere in the house.  No one is looking… We miss the boy who left… the smell of the stuff he put on his hair – sometimes we would take off the lid and scoop out tiny little bits.”

These quirky stories that had a definitive ending worked really well for me.  In the past, the short stories I’ve read have sometimes left me feeling short-changed and unsatisfied with their endings.  I think this is why I am wary of reading short stories but I am glad that I picked up Lucy Wood’s début collection as there were more stories in it that I enjoyed than ones I didn’t.  I’ll always be wary of reading short stories but can certainly vouch for ‘Diving Belles’ being a collection worthy of anyone’s reading time.

Which cover do you like best?

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