Thursday, 16 October 2008

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

A family is murdered, a small boy escapes, his would-be murderer chases him into a graveyard and the scene is set. Bod, short for Nobody Owens, grows up in the graveyarnd protected by its otherworldly inhabitants. Just like other children, Bod grows up loved and protected, learning the things he’ll need to know to survive the world, only Bod’s world isn’t like a normal boy’s world. He has other lessons he must learn in order to protect himself from some unusual threats.

This is an engaging story, despite being meant for children. The characters are interesting and the story line keeps you wondering what will happen next. The ending was a bit vague, but not unrealistic since life isn’t always decisive. All in all it’s a good book and if you’re looking for a bit of light reading, it’s just the thing.

Friday, 10 October 2008

A Meme

Gacked from Marireads

What was the last book you bought?
I just bought The Book Thief by Markus Zusak last night on Mariread’s recommendation and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.

Name a book you have read MORE than once
Pride and Prejudice. I re-read books all the time, mostly classics, but sometimes Pratchett or Christie when I’m in the mood. I’ve also waited years and then gone back and reread mystery series when I can’t remember whodunit. Rereads are always good for when I can’t afford new books (there are no easily accessible English Libraries here) I think I’ve read most of my books more than once.

Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?
I wouldn’t necessarily say that a single book has fundamentally changed the way I see life, but I think books as a whole do. I’m happier overall when I have time to read, which is always life changing, and each book leaves its own little impression on me. All of the little things add up to make the whole different than it was.

How do you choose a book? eg. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews
All of the above, but often recommendations from friends.

Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?Fiction!
I don’t really care for non-fiction unless it’s really entertaining. I get enough of reality as it is. I don’t need more of it in my fun time.

What’s more important in a novel - beautiful writing or a gripping plot?
I would say that both are an integral part of any book. Beautiful writing without a plot is boring and a great plot with horrible writing is unreadable. A really great book is well written, good plot, and all good books have a good dollop of plot and writing as well.

Most loved/memorable character (character/book)
Frodo from The Lord of the Rings, or Miss Marple from Agatha Christie, or Laura Ingalls Wilder; how do you choose? They all feel like old friends.

Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?
I’ve put a few away because it was getting a little crowded, so at the moment, I only have Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy, Wyrd Sisters and The Dark Side of the Sun by Terry Pratchett.

What was the last book you’ve read, and when was it?
I finished The Host by Stephanie Meyer the day before yesterday.

Have you ever given up on a book half way in?
Oh yes. Lots of times. Wuthering Heights is one I often only manage half of. I’m also having trouble with The Dark Side of the Sun. I can’t always make myself finish something just because I should.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

The Host - Stephanie Meyer

I just finished reading this book and while it’s not quite as brain eating as the Twilight series, it’s technically better written and it’s still a good read. What I particularly like about all Stephanie Meyer’s books is that they tell a good story without all of the suspense and violence that seems to permeate most of today’s society. Actually telling a good story is becoming a bit of a lost art nowadays as everything becomes Hollywoodised, yet she manages to keep you reading without a car crash or murder every 5 pages.

I also like that the both the general theme and the actions within the story throw up interesting points of view and give the reader something to think about. The Host takes place at the end of an alien invasion of Earth which the aliens have effectively already won. The aliens themselves are small creatures, called Souls, inserted into humans who then take over the human body as their own. Normally, the human mind/soul is extinguished in the process, but some of the humans fight back and refuse to let themselves be vanquished from their own minds. The story follows one such alien/human combination in which the Soul who cannot vanquish her human host begins to see things from a human standpoint with human emotions. The situation is neither comfortable nor desirable for either Host or Body. This puts both of them in a precarious situation as it’s impossible for them to exist in such a manner, yet seeking help is just as impossible. On the one hand, the aliens would remove the Soul and insert it into a more pliant body while killing off the old body, which goes against the Soul’s own beliefs. On the other hand, the few true humans left (who have not undergone the insertion and are in hiding) wouldn’t believe the Soul’s story and would most likely kill both human and Soul in the interest of self preservation. This increases the alliance and reliance of both human and Soul on each other and causes their relationship to take on new dimensions.

Each change in situation forces the characters to re-examine things they have in the past considered a given. Just as the characters, and the reader, become comfortable with the situation, Meyer shifts the viewpoint and causes another re-evaluation of beliefs on all sides. The characters start to see things from different viewpoints instead of just their own and their lives become more and more entangled in a web which is seemingly impossible to unravel. Some of the solutions are obvious and some are not, but all of them force the reader to reconsider his feelings just as the characters do. At the end of the book, you find yourself looking back and wondering whatever happened to what you believed was right at the beginning of the book.

Frankly I think it would do a lot of people good to read this book. Not because the subject matter is real, obviously, but because it challenges you to think about preconceptions, their origins and how right and wrong they may or may not be, yet does so without haranguing.

However, if you don’t like fantasy / sci fi, you might find the story a little difficult to get through. Also, like her other books, Meyer tends to spend a lot of time on detail and emotions, which could put readers off. Normally this would be a big negative in my book, but she still managed to keep me interested, so thumbs up for the book anyway.