Tag Archives: RIP VII

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII Wrap-Up

I am a little sad that this will be the last post with the above picture. Halloween is past, which means RIP VII is over. *sigh*

I had so much fun! I am by no means a scary-stories person. Tell any family members of mine that I have been reading for a Halloween challenge and I’m sure they will either frown or laugh at you. But as Kristin said in a comment on my latest post, “We’ve somehow converted you into a bit of a scary book reader.” And she’s absolutely right. By all standards I think I may have done a RIP light version, but it was just scary enough to make me appreciate and enjoy it.

I read nine books for RIP, thought not all of them might be considered dark enough. Nevertheless, I am quite proud of my list (the link will take you to my thoughts on the book):

Blackwood
Charmed Life
Maybe This Time
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Velveteen
The Moonstone
The Graveyard Book
Coraline
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

I am not going to mention favourites, for when I tried to do that here I ended up with a list of 6 out of 9. That’s a rather good score though, isn’t it?

I want to thank Carl so much for organising RIP again. I think I need not hesitate next year, like I did this time, about participation. I will definitely join again.

Did you participate in RIP VII? Did you enjoy it as much as I did? Are you as sad about saying goodbye for another year? Or are you planning any more scary reads in the upcoming months?

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Coraline - Neil GaimanCoraline – Neil Gaiman
Harpercollins, 2002
Buy: Amazon | Bookdepository *

When I posted about The Graveyard Book on Sunday, Kristin of We Be Reading left the following comment:

“Now, if you’re willing for a bit more of a scare, we’ll have you try Coraline next! :)

I admit I chuckled a little (though not in a mean way, I promise!) because I had actually read Coraline already. Most of all though, I agreed with her. Because Coraline is SCARY for a children’s book. But also really really good.

Coraline is about a girl called Coraline who lives in a large house which she shared with her parents and a couple of other inhabitants who all have their own quirky characteristics. This gives the story a very comfortable feel at first, but things are about to turn a lot darker. Coraline, bored when her parents and the other inhabitants have no time for her, starts counting the properties of the house, the windows, and later the doors. One of these doors is a mysterious one. At first it appears to be blocked by a wall of bricks, but soon it offers Coraline a secret passage into a strange world. On the other side of the door lies a world that is an inverted image of her own world. There, Coraline finds two people very much like her parents, except that they have buttons for eyes. Everything seems perfect and a lot more suited for Coraline’s enjoyment, until her “other mother” starts to want sewing in buttons for Coraline’s eyes as well..

[semi-spoilers from here on out]

There are a lot of elements that make this book work as a scary story. There’s the deceiving comfort of the first scenes and later of the mirror-world, there’s the progression of comfort to less-than-comfortable things which results in Coraline re-appreciating her “original” home life. There’s the element of the alternate parents that turn our to be wicked, and who are exactly so uncomfortable to the reader because they present themselves as intimately acquainted with Coraline from the start on little to no basis (that we know of). There’s the hints towards the evil fairy tale witch who locks away children and finds her ultimate calling in the “taking” of a life like that. There are the trap doors and chasings, and strange liminal worlds, and there are the “surprise!” elements (although the latter were perhaps the things I liked least, but I can see it working very well for younger readers).

However, what made this book truly fascinating and decidedly creepy for me were the hints towards a loss-of-identity narrative. I think it is not accidental that when Coraline enters inverted reality she goes through a liminal space in the sense of the hallway. And then, when she enters the other-world, everything in it is very similar to her “real” life, but something is constantly off. It leaves the reader puzzled for a while (how come people in this other-world actually get Coraline’s name right instead of the endless correction that she’s not Caroline that she has to make in her actual house?), are we supposed to think of this new world as the “real” one? Towards the end though, it becomes clear that it is not, and with that comes the threat of Coraline losing her real self if she stays there any longer. Worse yet, the evil might follow her into her “real” life.

Neil Gaiman does a stellar job in giving the reader a very unsettling story. I admit that after reading it I was glad I had not read it before. Had I read this as a child I think I might not have slept for a week. Then again, I am very easily scared.

Now it is time to try the movie version. But I admit, I am a little hesitant. I trust that this story works really well visually, as the drawings by Dave McKean that are part of the book already at another dimension of creepy to the story – but that’s just it. What if it works too well and I actually lie awake at night?

RIP VII button 2I read Coraline by Neil Gaiman for R.I.P. VII as hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings, even if I am a little late in posting about it. Click over to the RIP Review Site for more reads with a autumnal feel.

Other Opinions: without wanting to look lazy, I am going to direct you to the Book Blog Search Engine as there are truly too many posts about this book to count!

* These are affiliate links. If you buy a product through either of them, I will receive a small percentage of the purchase price.

All Hallow’s Read: The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase - Joan AikenThe Wolves of Willoughby Chase – Joan Aiken
Vintage Classics, 2012 (originally published 1962)

Buy: Amazon | Bookdepository *

The lovely Sakura sent this book to me as part of the All Hallows swap organised by Amy and Ana. I am pretty sure she could not have picked a more perfect read. Thank you!

In The Wolves of Willoughby Chase Sylvia comes to live with her cousin Bonnie just as Bonnie’s parents are leaving on a long trip. The countryside is overrun with wolves that have come to England through a tunnel connecting the island and Europe. But soon, Bonnie and Sylvia discover that the wolves are not the only danger lurking. Their governess, Miss Slighcarp, is making their life incredibly hard for them. When Miss Slighcarp begins threatening everything the cousins hold dear they have to find a way to restore comfort to their home.

Okay, so I admit, I am not very good at summarising this book, but perhaps a list of everything I liked about this book will convince you?

  • The story is set at “a time in history that never happened”. Yes, I was intrigued just after reading that one sentence. Better yet, it is an imagined, alternate 19th century setting! and therefore, it has a little of the things I love about period novels, combined with less restricted circumstances for girls, and just a pinch of a fairytale-like feel;
  • There are wonderful settings for this story: a great house in the country side that has secret passages, a river that is frozen throughout the winter that allows ice-skating, etcetera. Aiken does a wonderful job at setting the scene and drawing pictures of the landscapes in the reader’s mind;
  • The combination of Bonnie and Sylvia’s characters is wonderful. Bonnie is impulsive and daring with a great feeling for injustice while Sylvia is much more subdued but just as smart and sweet. Together they balance each other out and help each other and it’s all just really great;
  • Then there’s Simon who lives in the forest and who is just as charming;
  • On top of this attention is drawn to differences between a privileged rich family and poorer people. Some of this reminded me a little of Eva Ibbotson, but I think Aiken paints a less negative picture of the rich compared to, say, One Dog and His Boy. On the one hand, this makes The Wolves a little less subversive. On the other hand, I loved how Bonnie, Sylvia and Simon stick up for each other, ponder their difference but never fall out over them;
  • There’s adventure and the children get to play a big role in rescuing each other. Yay.

There are two small drawback (though really, they didn’t bother me much while reading). First, there’s the fact that as an adult reader I could see some of the twists and turns of the story coming, as there was perhaps a little bit too much foreshadowing for someone used to these stories. Nevertheless, I think that is an unfair criticism as this is a children’s book.  Second, the villains of the book are quite one-dimensional, although they are less so at the beginning of the story. Again, this did not bother me while reading. I feel a little bad for drawing attention to these two things as I really did enjoy this book very much.

For the All-Hallows swap I sent a small package to Joanna, check out her blog post about the swap here.

What spooky/scary/dark/other book are you reading for Halloween?

I read The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken for R.I.P. VII as hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Click over to the RIP Review Site for more reads with a autumnal feel.

Other Opinions: Things Mean A Lot, Book Clutter, BookNAround, Need More Shelves, Dogear Diary, A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy, Buried in Print.
Did I miss your post about this book? Let me know and I will add it to the list.

* These are affiliate links. If you buy a product through either of them, I will receive a small percentage of the purchase price.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book - Neil GaimanThe Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman
Bloomsbury, 2008

Buy: Amazon | Bookdepository *

Yesterday, I finally read The Graveyard Book. I stayed up until 2 am to read it (which was okay since I got an hour back in the morning). I just had to finish right away. I sat on my couch crying my eyes out by the time I had finished it. It is so sad and dark and warm and wonderful all at once. In short, The Graveyard Book was everything everyone promised it would be, and more. Part of me wishes I had read it earlier, as I’ve postponed reading this again and again, last time a few weeks ago when I should have read it for We Be Reading’s read along, and yet.. part of me wishes I still had this on my TBR pile. To come to it afresh, and experience its beauty again.

The Graveyard Book starts with a dark scene:

“There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife. The knife had a handle of polished black bone, and a blade finer and sharper than any razor. If it sliced you, you might not even know you had been cut, not immediately.

The knife had done almost everything it was brought to that house to do, and both the blade and the handle were wet.”

The reader soon learns that the thing the knife was brought to do was to kill a family. And the one thing still left to accomplish was the killing of one of the two children of the family. However, that child, a toddler still, manages to escape. The little boy runs into the local graveyard and there he finds protection and a place to live among the ghosts of the deceased. Mr. and Mrs. Owens will act as his parents and Silas as his guardian. The boy himself is called Nobody Owens, know to all as Bod. Throughout the book you watch Bod grow up on the margin of society, interacting with and being taught by the ghosts surrounding him, while he discovers several things about the world of the non-living. Meanwhile, Silas tries to keep Bod save from the dangers in the world of the living, for the man Jack, who once killed his family, is still out there looking for Bod.

I cannot quite articulate why I loved this book so much without giving everything away, but I will try. For one, I loved how the first part that focuses on childhood adventures ties in with the second part of the book which focuses more on a showdown. Second, I loved how as a reader you notice how carefully crafted this story is, perfectly thought out, beautifully written, with challenging concepts and questions thrown in while still having a comfortable flow. But most of all I loved how darkness and warmth were combined. How the story constantly evokes small life lessons without forcing them on the reader. How Bod finds friends among the deceased and is yet encouraged to embrace his life as one of the living. How friendship, and love, and the final letting go are integral parts of Bod’s childhood and his coming of age. And how Neil Gaiman is so confident in combining all of these elements in a book for children, without talking down to them, without making it too complicated, and yet without taking away from the ambiguous and challenging qualities of life.

Colour me very very impressed.

I read The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman for R.I.P. VII as hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Click over to the RIP Review Site for more reads with a autumnal feel.

Other Opinions: Things Mean a Lot, Beauty is a Sleeping Cat, Rebecca Reads,  Fyrefly’s Book Blog, Bart’s Bookshelf, Rob Around Books, The Sleepless Reader,  Savidge Reads, Maw Books Blog, Steph & Tony Investigate!, Jenny’s Books, Stella Matutina, My Favourite Books, You’ve GOTTA Read This, In Spring It is the Dawn, Fleur Fisher, Always Cooking Up Somethingamong others..
Did I miss your post about this book? Let me know and I will add it to the list.

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Velveteen by Daniel Marks

Velveteen - Daniel MarksVelveteen – Daniel Marks
Delacorte Books for Young Readers, October 2012

Review copy from Netgalley
Buy: Amazon | Bookdepository *

Velveteen Monroe was murdered by Bonesaw, a sadistic murderer who delights in killing teenage girls. Now that she’s dead, Velveteen is part of a team of salvagers in Purgatory who have to make sure that no creatures of the afterlife possess anyone in the world of the living. For if that happens, cracks start to show in Purgatory in the form of shadowquakes. While Velveteen is on one of her missions to save Purgatory, she rescues Nick, a boy she feels an instant attraction to. But Velvet hardly has time to fall in love, for she’s on a mission. That is, she’s actually on two missions; an official one that makes her the spill in an effort to save Purgatory from revolution, and an unofficial one in which she (illegally) haunts Bonesaw and hopes to eventually take revenge on him.

The thing with Velveteen is, it received a lot of anticipatory hype before its release, which is what made me request it for review on Netgalley. I cannot say that anticipation truly paid off, although there are quite a few more positive reviews out there.

One of the major complaints out there is that the original plot summary by the publisher focused heavily on Velveteen’s plot for revenge on Bonesaw, while the focus of the plot is actually on something else for large parts of the book. I was quite okay with that change in focus, because I didn’t think Bonesaw and Velvet’s plot for revenge were the most interesting thing about this book. However, I do agree that the switch between the other plot points and Velvet’s revenge plan were somewhat sudden sometimes and did not make the most sense in the overall story the book tells.

But my major complaints were with other parts of the novel. For one, Velvet and her group of friends in purgatory are portrayed with a lot of strong language, and they seem to love talking about sex most of all. Now, I am okay with teenagers having sex in YA novels. It’s not that.. It was the kind of language used that made me feel less disposed to liking this part of the story. The boys often engage in talk about “sluts” and the need to get laid or they might “explode”. It is not that the girls do not engage in a similar kind of objectifying of boys (Nick, for example, never quite moves beyond a description of him as being very hot). In a way, I felt that Velveteen was intended to subvert expectations about girls and love in her attitude towards Nick and her potential interest in him. And yet.. It did not work for me. For now most of what I got were a bunch of teenagers objectivying each other and using strong language, which left very little room for actual character, and relationship, development.

It’s not that there is no character development whatsoever in Velveteen, or that we do not receive glimpses of the persons behind the personas, but I did feel that it might have been too little to truly make me care about any of them. Velveteen, on the one hand, is admirable in the way that she is a truly strong girl. And yet I couldn’t help but feel somewhat removed from her, as if there was a glass wall between me and her that wasn’t supposed to be there.

I think actually that might be the biggest drawback of Velveteen; I just did not really care enough about the plot or the characters for the first two-thirds of the novel. The build-up was pretty slow which did not help. I think this was in part due to the care taken to build up a proper view of Purgatory. I think the author succeeded in that, most of the time, and some of the details provided were very telling and interesting. But they did not always work, and sometimes it truly felt as if these details were holding the plot back.

I should note that my response to Velveteen was not all-round negative. The plot took a while to really get moving, but in the end I became interested in how it would end. Actually, the world-building of Purgatory was of most interest to me, there were some really well-thoughtout details in there. The rebellion played a big part in that. That part of the plot might be read as a critique of the power discourse inherent to this idea of the afterlife, while never truly going for an idea of religion or the afterlive as “evil”. Instead, the book makes the reader ask questions: why are all of these teenagers in Purgatory? why do so many of them accept that they have to work towards a common good when they’re dead and are, perhaps, supposed to be beyond caring? is there a way of leaving Purgatory? is there a God? (It’s funny how none of the characters know, and are quite frustrated with the fact that they won’t find out for some time). We’re shown that Purgatory has leaders and workers, and there is an interesting dynamic between them, in which no one is sure who they can trust a 100%, and at the same time they’re officially all working towards a common goal. Velvet’s suspicions of her superiors were very interesting in that regard.

Unfortunately, not all my questions were answered. I am pretty sure there is going to be a next book for the manner in which the end seems to raise more questions than provide answers. I am curious what that next book will do with this idea of Purgatory, and how the power struggles might play out. If that is to be the true focus of any next book, I might be interested in reading it. However, to truly engage me it would need to have more compelling character development.

I read Velveteen by Daniel Marks for R.I.P. VII as hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Click over to the RIP Review Site for more reads with a autumnal feel.

Other Opinions: Presenting Lenore, Popcorn Reads, bewitched bookworms, Jen Ryland, Wicked Little Pixie, Books with Bite, Bookworm1858, Radiant Shadows.
Did I miss your post about this book? Let me know and I will add it to the list.

* These are affiliate links. If you buy a product through either of them, I will receive a small percentage of the purchase price.