This book was an amazing middle grade coming of age novel and I loved it! From the author that penned Coraline comes The Graveyard Book a book about a...moreThis book was an amazing middle grade coming of age novel and I loved it! From the author that penned Coraline comes The Graveyard Book a book about a young boy whose parents are brutally murdered (off camera) when he is a baby and left unattended he wanders into a graveyard. To protect the boy from the serial killer Jack the graveyard inhabitants adopt him and raise him as their own. They even give him a name of their choosing, Nobody. He grows up surrounded by ghosts and ghouls and other creatures more mysterious and left unnamed. Somehow with their help he must grow up and learn about this world and with the help of the dead be given the tools he needs to live his own life, hopefully before the serial killer comes back and snuffs it out permanently.
I loved the storytelling and the research that went into this book. I loved the history and little side stories we are teased with all along Bod's way as he grows up in a graveyard full of ghosts with memories and histories and stories to tell. I loved the illustrations as well. I thought they were lovely and well done and matched the mood of the book perfectly.
I was surprised at how sinister the opening was with the serial killer gripping a knife in the opening scenes. But the tension proved to be written well and it never went too over the top with it. Also for a book about ghosts, ghouls and things both dead and undead I thought the book managed to keep things interesting and light instead of getting bogged down in macabre. For example in one scene Bod explores a very old part of the graveyard that has been reclaimed by the forest preserve and ends up falling 20 feet into an open grave and twisting his ankle on a casket. I would be screaming at this point but Bod is not because the ghost from the casket comes out and turns out to be a doctor and insists on checking Bod's ankle for injuries before going to fetch help.
Because this is a book that deals with death there is a lot of discussion about what that means and the relationship between the living and the dead. I, for one, thought that being raised in a graveyard meant that Bod got to have a very enlightened understanding about life and death because of this at a very young age. He knows its going to happen someday, as it does to all of us, and he doesn't fear it because most of his friends are dead. I think this book could work out well to open up a dialog about death with a child as well as about life.
Neil Gaiman credits The Jungle Book at the end of this book as inspiration for The Graveyard Book but I was forcibly put in mind of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Both well written middle grade novels about a young boy coming of age. Both protagonists also facing death at the hands of one man who killed their family. This is one of the best books I have read all year even though it is not at all for my age range. I highly recommend it for children of all ages. Also I thought this book particularly lent itself to being read aloud as well. Combined with the illustrations it makes a great story to read with your children, though perhaps not just before bed.(less)
Just for the record I am Team Unicorn all the way. I have loved unicorns since I was very small. I had stuffed animal unicorns, my little pony action...moreJust for the record I am Team Unicorn all the way. I have loved unicorns since I was very small. I had stuffed animal unicorns, my little pony action figures that were unicorns, even unicorn wallpaper on the walls of my bedroom (oh yes, there were rainbows too, why do you ask?). I was a huge fantasy fan even then. Zombies have been a much more recent addition to my life and while I do find them frightening, but in an intriguing way, I don’t normally get much enjoyment out of reading about them.
With this attitude I cracked open Zombies vs. Unicorns, a short story anthology edited by Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black. The purpose of this book is to have a show down between short stories about zombies and short stories about unicorns to see which one would come out on top. Some of the best YA fantasy authors contributed to this collection and it shows. Even the stories that weren’t as powerful as some of the others still had a shine to them that I appreciated and I didn’t feel that there was a dull one in the bunch.
There was a short introduction talking about zombies and unicorns and their relative merits and then each of the twelve short stories contained a short preface by the editors arguing for or against their specific champion as regards to the story presented. For the most part this was written humorously and sometimes with amazing insight into the story itself. On an occasion or two it skittered dangerously close to being degrading to the story or author and not just to the zombie or unicorn the author was supporting. Perhaps I was misreading intent though because the bickering did get a bit tiring by the 11th and 12th round as they started to run out of things to argue about.
While all of the stories were very well written and each brought up great points in their own way my two favorites were "The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn" by Diana Peterfruend the author of Rampant and "Bougainvillea" by Carrie Ryan the author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth. So, basically I liked a unicorn and a zombie story respectively each expanding on the respective worlds the authors had built in their novels with these short stories.
The unicorn stories both poked fun at their own ranks with tongue firmly in cheek or used the unicorn in increasingly creative way to examine different aspects of humanity. In "The Highest Justice" a princess uses her purity to bring a unicorn to her aide and see justice be done. I wanted this one to be a full blown novella because I wanted to read more after it came to a close. I thought that both "Purity Test", a story about a unicorn that is willing to be lenient on the concept of virginity if it means he gets a competent heroine, and "Princess Prettypants", a story about a girl that wants a car for her birthday but instead gets a unicorn, were laugh out loud funny and I enjoyed them very much. "A Thousand Flowers" ended up being more sad and introspective than I expected, as a unicorn leads a man to find a princess bloody and half naked in the woods. Finally, I think "The Third Virgin" is a must read as it shows the addiction to, and pitfalls of, seeking attention and pity when you deserve neither.
The zombie stories, interestingly enough, spent more of their time not being traditional zombie stories than otherwise. Most of them actually turned out to be a zombie romance! In "Love Will Tear Us Apart" a zombie struggles with his condition and with his feelings for another boy at the same time. In "The Children of the Revolution" the generation that comes after the zombie apocalypse decides to rebel in the way each new generation does best, by becoming that which their parents hate. In "Inoculata" we examine crazy celebrities, their fascination with staying forever young, and their strangely sinister and secretive religions. "Cold Hands" is another zombie love story with the living and the dead risking everything for love. Finally, "Prom Night" was the first truly sinister zombie story in the bunch and will leave you chilled to the bone.
If you are a fan of either zombies or unicorns (or even both!) I think you will really enjoy this book, bickering and all. For fans of Rampant or The Forest of Hands and Teeth this is a must read for the new back story and world building that those authors add in their short stories in this collection.(less)
I think that The Forest of Hands and Teeth works out as a fantastic and well written introduction to post-apocalyptic zombie fiction. It was realistic...moreI think that The Forest of Hands and Teeth works out as a fantastic and well written introduction to post-apocalyptic zombie fiction. It was realistic, engaging, horrifying and managed to both keep that realistic and well done horror and be accessible to a young age group. I absolutely loved it.
In The Forest of Hands and Teeth Mary lives with her brother and mother in a small village fenced off from the rest of the world and deals with both the horror of the "Unconsecrated" and the social isolation of being in a small village with bravery, inquisitiveness and this amazing survival extinct that I really admired. Things became tough, almost impossible, but she stayed true to her dreams even when literally everyone around her was screaming, "No!"
I'm not saying Mary was drawn super unrealistic as a heartless, nerves-of-steel heroine. She played it cool and stopped to think during times when I would have been too frightened to form a coherent thought, during times when she was scared and going on instinct I would have been curled up in a useless ball crying for my mother. She was brave but not stupid brave, you dig?
This book continues with all sorts of twists and turns and hints at what really happened in this world to cause the "Return" and who the Sisterhood really is without spelling it out enough for the characters to ever figure things out. I did find that part a little frustrating, I wanted the characters, besides Mary, to be a little more curious about what things were like before the Return, what caused it, and its immediate aftermath and the formation of the fenced off village. But I guess that is the price of both realism and the fact that this is just a YA novel (not to mention only the first in a trilogy!).
I loved reading about this heroine and her attempts to unravel the secrets that surround her. I also loved reading about this young woman who was set on her dreams and was willing to make whatever sacrifices needed to be made to achieve them. I also appreciated that while she often dealt with opposition, arguments, self doubt, torturous treatment and impossible circumstances that she never once doubted her belief in a world beyond those gates.
This was a fantastic choice for Halloween reading and perfectly matched the eerie mood and cold weather. At one point in the novel she describes a long deluge of rain and a chilly spell and when I went outside I was surprised to find it relatively warm and sunny! I look forward to the second book in this series The Dead Tossed Waves. I recommend this to anyone looking for something light and spooky to read in these last few days before Halloween.(less)
The book Dracula is nothing like any of the movies or TV shows that try to depict him. There are no capes, unnaturally pointed faces or strangely coif...moreThe book Dracula is nothing like any of the movies or TV shows that try to depict him. There are no capes, unnaturally pointed faces or strangely coiffed hair, and no one ever says, “I vant to suck your blood!” Dracula is actually a fairly handsome gentleman with good manners (to a point) that does everything he can to appear as a normal human being: fashionable mode of dress, normal hair, polite conversation and if he is a little pale and his teeth just the slightly bit pointed, what of it? His good manners extend even to the point of entertaining his guests with jokes and stories that keep them laughing and listening well into the small hours of the morning. To his advantage.
If you take everything you ever heard or have seen about Dracula from modern media and toss it aside, the book Dracula is actually a fairly creepy tome in it’s own right, and with it’s own unique nature actually can be construed as even scarier. The best of the technology they had on hand seemed to do nothing to stop him and old wives tales and primitive treatments were their only protection in a war that no respectable person would have believed they were fighting. The insane that did believe them had their own ends for their belief, and I believe the lunatic in the novel was one of the freakiest literary characters I’ve ever come across, Dracula and his brides not withstanding. This was one of the original horror novels, upon which all others are today based.
One of the things I found frustrating about the novel was the amount of sexism in it. It was accurate and fully expected of the times, but the number of times they discounted or tried to protect women (and only managed to succeed in getting them killed or worse) drove me up a wall. The women were not helpless by any stretch of the imagination and, in their enforced cluelessness, managed to prove that by causing a whole lot of trouble that could have easily been prevented had they known what was going on. When they were clued in they proved invaluable assets in the ongoing struggle, but only at the end of all things, and only as an extreme last resort were they permitted to do so.
If you enjoy some well written classic horror, then I recommend reading Dracula, with the caveat that you should keep in mind the era it was written in and be prepared to deal with the strictures placed on society back then, and the influence that will have on the story.(less)
This lovely book, Black Heart, Ivory Bones, is a collection of fantasy and horror tales edited by my two favorite ladies of their respective genres El...moreThis lovely book, Black Heart, Ivory Bones, is a collection of fantasy and horror tales edited by my two favorite ladies of their respective genres Ellen Datlow (horror) and Terri Windling (fantasy). This is one book in a series of six volumes of, as they call it, reconsidered fairy tales. These fairy tales are rewritten to change the focus of the originals or perhaps just to sharpen the point of them to showcase the sinister, the sensual, and the sometimes sadistic roots of our childhood fairy tales.
Some of my favorites were "Rapunzel", "Big Hair", "The King with Three Daughters", "And Still She Sleeps", "Goldilocks Tells All", "The Red Boots", "You, Little Match Girl", "The Cats of San Martino" and "The Golem". And, yes, one of those ("You, Little Match Girl") was by the infamous Joyce Carol Oates, whose work I normally find too harsh to stomach, this particular piece though was one of the most profoundly powerful in the collection. The other piece that was the best in my opinion was "And Still She Sleeps" which brings up the very valid point that if true love's kiss is supposed to wake someone, and the only people available to kiss them were people that had not known them to love them in life, how are they ever to be kissed awake? True love is not determined on beauty alone.
My husband does not enjoy re-written fairy tales so I thought I would bring up his complaint since I don't have any of my own to voice. He says that authors that write these sorts of stories just seem to take the characters in them and drop everything else to make them act out something completely different. I don't completely agree with him because, though some stories do that, such as Big Hair, at the same time they do keep to the spirit of what the original story was trying to say, even if in a more modern, dark or surreal way.
If you enjoy reconsidered fairy tales, short stories of a more modern bent that take your old fairy tales and give them new and interesting life, then I would say definitely give this book a whirl. You won't be disappointed.
Favorite Quote: "It's my latest," Goldy concluded, "my best, and the one which the New York Times recently described as 'thrilling, sad, heartbreaking' and 'packs a huge wallop.' Entitled The Goldilocks Syndrome, it's currently available in the lobby at a today-only discount of $21.95. And if you act now, I'll sign and date this sucker at no extra charge." --Goldilocks Tells All(less)