Posts Tagged ‘supernatural’

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

I only really discovered Neil Gaiman’s books last year but I’ve been catching up since. I probably would have overlooked Coraline except that the film is coming out soon (it’s already out in the UK) and I like to read the book first.

Coraline has just moved into a new flat with her parents. An only child, she gets lonely when she feels her parents are ignoring her and finds little entertainment with the eccentric actresses from downstairs, or the man with the mouse circus from upstairs. One day she finds a door that appears not to go anywhere, but in fact leads to a much larger-than-life replica of her home, and her Other Mother really wants her to stay…

I got the impression at the beginning of the book that it took a while to get into the swing of it; it was quite abrupt initially. It didn’t take long to start flowing much more smoothly though. It’s not violent or gory but it is creepy and, just when it seems to have wrapped up nicely, it gets even creepier. I’d have been terrified as a child (though I was a particularly wussy child), and was slightly freaked out as an adult to be honest (so nothing much changed really).

This is a great book for older children, you’d probably have to be eitherĀ  big Neil Gaiman fan or a fan of children’s books to get on with it as an adult, unlike The Graveyard Book which I think is aimed at slightly older children and is less of a change of style for adults. As a fan of both Gaiman and well written children’s books, however, I recommend it. Unless you’re on your own in an otherwise dark house, in which case I’d wait until morning.

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Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

Another LibraryThing recommendation and one that worked very well for me, perfect for cosy snuggled up with a blanket reading.

The Waverleys have lived in Bascom for generations and there’s always been something a little bit magical about them and, especially, their garden. Sidney left as soon as she could while older sister Claire stayed and now runs a successful catering business, popular because of the special ingredients she uses from her garden. When Sidney is forced to return everything is stirred up – Claire has to learn to open up and accept a bit of chaos in her usually ordered life, and Sidney has to accept who she is.

It’s very similar to Practical magic in a lot of ways but no less enjoyable for that. You find yourself drawn to this family and their magic which isn’t overdone, it’s very subtle and fits well with the book which is really about the Waverleys and their lives rather than the magic. It was a quick read but I loved it. Recommended.

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb

This book was strongly recommended a number of times by various LibraryThing members. It was a little awkward to get hold of – I’m not sure it’s been published in the UK, but Amazon came to my rescue. I’m glad I put the effort in to find it.

Helen has been Light – a ghost – for 130 years. In that time she has haunted a number of ‘hosts’ – people she attaches herself to in order to stay in this world. Her current host is a high school English teacher and one day she senses one of his students looking at her.

The story that follows describes the bond between Helen and this boy. I was captivated from the very beginning – in some ways I was less captivated as it went along but it pulled me right back in at the end. I think the setting you read this book in is important; it really deserves to be soaked up in one sitting and I couldn’t do that, and I think that’s the only reason I became less engaged. Overall though I loved it all and became really attached to Helen. I definitely recommend this.

Tithe by Holly Black

Tithe is another young adult book and again is about a teenage girl who can see faeries. I suspect the recommendations for this and Wicked Lovely probably came from the same place.

Sixteen year-old Kaye has spent her life moving from town to town with her mother’s band. When her mother is attached by her boyfriend they return to Kaye’s childhood home to live with her grandmother, a place were Kaye used to see faeries. She finds herself drawn back into their world and, as with Wicked Lovely, we see that the faerie world isn’t all (or even mostly) sweetness and light.

Though there are obvious similarities with Wicked Lovely the tone is quite different, and Kaye’s story is very different from Aislinn’s. Many elements of Kaye’s real life are as seedy as the faerie world, it’s quite gritty in comparison to Aislinn’s and I’m clearly become very shockable in my old age as I was surprised to read of a sixteen year-old smoking (quite why I don’t know, apparently you really do forget what being a teenager is actually like. This is probably a good thing). She is drawn to the faerie world rather than resisting, being a more willing participant in her adventures, although she does get more than she bargained for.

For reasons I can’t quite put my finger on I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as Wicked Lovely – I warmed to the characters in the latter a lot more and felt like I knew them better by the end of it. However it’s still a very good book – I enjoyed it a lot and will be seeking out the sequel.

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Again this was one of those “if you liked x, you may also like” type recommendations, I can’t remember where it came from but was probably based on some of the urban fantasy stuff I’ve been reading.

This is another book I really enjoyed. I was immediately drawn in by the blurb (well, that’s what it’s for, but this particularly grabbed me) describing the three rules Aislinn, our heroine, has been taught to live by:

Rule 3: Never stare at invisible faeries.

Rule 2: Never speak to invisible faeries.

Rule 1: Don’t ever attract their attention.

Aislinn has always been able to see faeries but has carefully built up the ability to pretend she can’t, because she knows how dangerous they are. Unfortunately she does unwittingly attract the attention of Keenan, the Summer King, and once she does there’s no going back really.

The faeries in this world aren’t the happy fluffy tree dwelling type at all and that’s one thing I really liked about the book. Aislinn is great, her relationship with Seth is really well described and you do end up rooting for them. The faerie world is great, creepy but in a way that makes you want to learn more about it.

The book is young adult fiction and there are a couple of places – but only very minor points, where that shows. Towards the beginning the exact track that Aislinn chooses is mentioned which jarred a bit, it’s a really minor thing and I’m not sure why it stood out so much but it did. Aislinn’s concerns about her virginity stuck out too, although again I’m not sure why, probably because I’m much older! But they’re realistic concerns for a girl of her age. However I wouldn’t let the fact that it’s a YA book put you off – it’s really well written, a good story and gets pretty dark in places. I was initially surprised at the age recommendation on the back (13+) but I ended up thinking even 13 might be a little bit young (it’s a long time since I was 13 though).

I’ll probably be picking the sequel up over the weekend, and am now following the author on Twitter, so definitely hooked!

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

I can’t remember where I got the recommendation for this from, but it popped up on the basis of me liking the Sookie Stackhouse books.

Elena is a journalist living in Toronto with her boyfriend Philip, living a reasonably normal life. At least, as normal as you can when you’re the only female werewolf and somehow have to balance that with city life, a job, a relationship etc. Elena left The Pack, rebelling against the whole werewolf thing, but they need her help and summon her back.

I really enjoyed this book, possibly even more than Sookie Stackhouse. It’s a bit darker than that series and Dead Witch Walking, and somehow I warmed to this more than Dead Witch Walking although I can’t really put my finger on why. Elena was great, similar personality traits to Sookie and Rachel Morgan (the aforementioned witch) but equally she has her flaws, so you don’t always approve of what she’s doing. Her relationship with Clay does a great job of holding your interest without getting too sappy, and the central plot is definitely gripping. I did get slightly frustrated waiting for Elena to come to the fairly obvious conclusion about what she’s really looking for out of life, but that had to wait until the end of the book really and, intelligent though she is, she’s also really stubborn, so that delay isn’t particularly unbelievable.

I recommend giving this a go.

Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison

I’m running out of Sookie Stackhouse books so have been looking for a similar series for a bit of light reading, and this came up on Amazon’s recommendations.

Rachel Morgan works for Inderland Security, Inderlanders being the supernatural beings that live alongside humans (vampires, witches,werewolves etc) and always have, but humans haven’t known for that long and are a bit twitchy about it. One day she quits, but it’s not the kind of organisation you can quite and they soon have their people after her. So Rachel is starting up her own company, trying to avoid the assassins and working on a scheme to pay off her IS contract. She’s a busy lady.

I didn’t enjoy this quite as much as I enjoy the Sookie Stackhouse series, I think because Sookie is basically an ordinary girl in an ordinary small town. This book focussed very much on the Inderland community. That said it was a good, enjoyably read. The characters are likeable, Rachel kicks ass (obviously) but there are a number of interesting supporting characters. The story moves along nicely, and I particularly like some of the little touches that demonstrate how different Rachel’s world is (she wears amulets for pain relief, and at one point is given Aspirin which she’s a bit suspicious of…) I’ll be looking out for the rest of the series.

Conjugal Rites by Paul Magrs

I’ve been waiting for this to come out in paperback for ages, and I rushed out to buy it at the first available opportunity, which was yesterday, and finished it today. It was definitely worth it.

Conjugal Rites is the third in a series of books starring Brenda and Effie, two formidable old ladies who live in Whitby and find themselves drawn into solving mysteries, usually involving supernatural goings on. Throughout the books you learn more about Brenda’s mysterious past along with the mysteries, and get to watch Brenda and Effie’s friendships develop, and there’s a lot of humour alongside the supernatural stuff.

The three books are very different. The first does have a story running through it, but each chapter is also a mystery in its own right. I often describe it as being structured a little like the Treehouse of Horror episodes of The Simpsons. It sounds disjointed but actually works very well to introduce Brenda, drop some hints about her and prove that Whitby really does attract some odd things. Books 2 and 3 revolve much more about one central story, with 2 delving much more into Brenda’s history and 3 more on her future.

This book has been my favourite with 2, although very good, probably the weakest in the series. There is the return of some familiar love-to-hate characters, some old friends and one long-awaited appearance. I can’t go into too much detail without giving a lot away but it’s a brilliant adventure and Whitby is the perfect setting, with Brenda (especially) and Effie being some of my favourite characted ever. I can’t wait for the next one (but I’ll have to).

Practical Demonkeeping by Christopher Moore

I think I picked this up because it was recommended on one of those “if you like this you might also like…” things on either Amazon or Library thing.

It’s set in the fictional town of Pine Cove, California. Travis travels there with Catch, the man-eating demon he accidentally found himself saddled with and is desperately trying to get rid of. All kinds of silliness ensues.

I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would, but I think maybe I wasn’t really in the right mood for it. It was a good read, funny and entertaining but with a storyline as well so it doesn’t just hang on the jokes. I don’t know why I never really felt absorbed in the book because there’s nothing about it that I shouldn’t have liked more, but having said all that I did enjoy it.

I will be looking up some of his other books before I work out whether to stick with the author but I think I probably will.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I discovered Neil Gaiman’s books last year – I think mainly because the I liked the look of the Stardust film, but I have a thing about making sure I read the book before I see a film adaptation. I really enjoyed Stardust, then went on to read Neverwhere, Good Omens and American Gods, all of which I loved. So I was really pleased when a friend bought me this for Christmas.

It’s a children’s book so much shorter and with less complex language than the other Gaiman books I’ve read. However that doesn’t mean less attention was paid to the story and characters, and I really enjoyed it. It tells the story of Nobody Owens (Bod to his friends). The Man Jack breaks into his home when he’s a baby and murders his family, but Bod manages to escape. He makes it to the local graveyard and is then brought up by its residents.

It’s a coming of age story with a thriller behind it, as the Man Jack never gives up on trying to get to Bod. The illustrations fit really well with the style of the story and Silas, Bod’s mysterious guardian who doesn’t fit neatly into the living or dead categories, is one of my favourite literary characters ever.

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