Archive for August, 2010

The Lovely Bones By Alice Sebold

The Lovely Bones

Alice Sebold
Paperback, 352 pages
Little Brown & Company
April 20, 2004

 

Susie Salmon (“like the fish”) was murdered at age 14 by a man in her neighborhood.  She left behind her parents, her brother and sister and the family dog, Holiday.  Before being lured to her death in an underground hideout hidden in a local cornfield, Susie had been a normal girl with a normal life.  She went to school, pined over her crush Ray Singh, and dreamt of being a wildlife photographer.  But all her hopes and dreams of a future she would never live to see were ripped from her by the man who’d carefully prepared for her rape and murder.  And she hadn’t been his first.

The Lovely Bones is a compilation of memories throughout Susie’s short life and the events that followed her death, centering around her family, Name, and an acquaintance from school named Ruth Connors, who sensed Susie’s terrified soul as it fled the earthly realm the night of her death.  Susie narrates the story from her heaven, a ever-changing place she calls the In Between, where she spends time with fellow departed souls whose heavens overlap with hers and watches the loved ones she left behind on Earth. 

She suffers as her family slowly falls apart in the aftermath of her disappearance, and when her case switches from missing person to homicide her mother eventually leaves for California to try to forget her dead daughter.  Susie watches as Ray and Ruth grow closer in their grief for her, and as her neighbors hold vigil in the cornfield on the anniversary of her death.  She sees her family struggle to pick up the pieces and carry on with life as the years go by and her siblings grow up.  She sees all this, and we see it with her, all while she is constantly reminded by others in her heaven that she must forget Earth.  But she doesn’t forget the ones she left behind, just as they never forget her.    

When I saw Peter Jackson’s film version of The Lovely Bones a few months ago I was absolutely blown away.  The cinematography was stunning and the emotion was so raw and tangible, by the end I was so overwhelmed I was speechless and in tears.  Beautiful, beautiful movie. 

So naturally I was really excited to read the book and I expected it to be even better than the movie (because books usually are).  Unfortunately, this turned out not to be the case.  I still loved the premise of the story, but I couldn’t connect with Susie and her family as much as I did with their movie counterparts.  And Susie’s memories in the book weren’t woven in as seamlessly.  They felt choppy and disjointed, interrupting the flow of the narrative.  Somehow the book just felt flat and dull when compared to the movie.  The emotional scenes weren’t as intense and even during the suspenseful parts my heart was calm and even, as opposed to when it felt like it was going to beat out of my chest during the movie (when Susie’s sister breaks into George Harvey’s house and finds his journal).

Overall it was a good read, and one that I don’t regret, but my experience while watching the film clearly influenced my perception of the book.  Maybe if I had read the book before seeing the movie I’d be writing just the opposite. 

What do you think?  Did you prefer the book or the movie?

Just finished…wizards and vagabonds

Just finished…

Two completely different books, but loved them both.  The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and Storm Front by Jim Butcher. 

The Glass Castle (thanks to Krystal for lending it to me!) is actually a memoir that focuses mostly on Jeannette’s crazy childhood.  It was unbelievable and amazing.  It had me completely captivated from start to finish and I found my jaw dropping several times as my brain tried to fathom the existence that this family had.  Not only were they constantly on the move but they lived in filth and squalor, the kids forcing their mother to get out of bed to go to work (when she was working) and fishing for scraps of food out of the school trash cans (when they went to school).  Their father worked odd jobs from time to time but spent most of his time drinking and gambling.  Both parents refused to work or accept any help from others, yet became outraged whenever the kids accused them of neglect or irresponsible behavior.  All I can say is that Jeannette and her siblings must be some tough people to have survived such an upbringing.  This isn’t the sort of book I would normally pick up and read but my friend practically shoved it in my face and swore up and down that it was fantastic.  She couldn’t have been more right.

Storm Front is the first of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, an urban fantasy series featuring Harry Dresden, the only practicing wizard for hire in the United States.  Dresden is a wonderful character and from the first few pages I was hooked.  He might be dangerous and powerful, with a streak of anger hidden just beneath the surface, but he’s got a sense of humor and really he’s just a nice guy.  Plus, he wears a duster.  That’s just awesome.  In the first book he gets caught up investigating a series of gruesome murders that could only have been the work of a sorcerer, while at the same time he’s hired by a nervous wife who wants him to find her missing husband.  The two cases turn out to be related and Harry faces a slew of dangers before finally getting down to the bottom of the mystery and facing off with the bad guy.  I’ll definitely continue this series and I’d like to check out his other fantasy series as well.

Vampires and Werewolves and Sidhe, Oh My!

This summer has been a busy one, with lots of travelling – which means a lot of time to read but not much time to talk about it.  I think I’ve let about four books go by without posting a thing about them.  So I thought I’d just mention them briefly because they were all great, though wildly different, and merit a mention.

The first was an Emma Campion galley I won called The King’s Mistress, about Alice Perrers, who became entangled in a web of court intrigue after becoming the mistress of Edward III.  I love this type of historical fiction and I’m not all that familiar with this time period so it was interesting to get a chance to learn more about the Plantagenets and Lancasters while seeing through the eyes of a woman who was vilified for her affair with the king.  The story was engaging and I really enjoyed it, but when the tension began to mount I didn’t experience the delicious fear and constant anxiety that books like The Other Boleyn Girl evoked.  Alice made it plain the many dangers she faced throughout her life but I was more curious about what was going to happen than anxious.  The writing itself was beautiful and Alice was a strong and admirable protagonist.

For a change of pace I turned to an urban fantasy that was featured on the Nook’s weekly Free Fridays promotion – the first in Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series, Darkfever.  It’s about MacKayla Lane, a woman in her early 20s who travels to Dublin, Ireland after the brutal and unsolved murder of her sister.   In the hopes that the local law enforcement will renew their efforts to find the killer if a family member is there in the flesh, Mac settles into the city where her sister’s life was cut short and unwittingly stumbles into a dark and magical world where faeries roam the streets disguised as humans and entire blocks are swallowed from memory.  She finds an unlikely partner in Jericho Barrons, a rich and eccentric book store owner with a few mysteries of his own, who tells her that she is a Sidhe seer – someone who can see the fae.  Not only that, but she can sense magical artifacts and freeze all manner of fae creatures with one touch.  Mac discovers that her sister was also involved with the Sidhe somehow and as she learns more about her abilities and continues the search for her sister’s murderer she becomes all the more bound to Jericho and his quest for an all-important Sidhe artifact that, according to Mac’s sister, is the key to everything.  Darkfever was a fast-paced urban adventure with a fantastic array of exotic and dark faeries – and these are no Tinkerbells, mind you.  I loved the tension and banter between Mac and Jericho.  It was just a lot of fun and great storytelling.  I’ll definitely be continuing the series.

Also a Nook Free Friday title, Cry Sanctuary came next.  Also an urban fantasy – werewolves this time – and the first in the Red Rock Pass series by Moira Rogers, this book was another speedy, brain candy type of adventure.  Werewolf packs live in secret all over the country and most are run by greedy alphas who abuse their position and power and terrorize their subordinates to get what they want.  Red Rock is place that provides sanctuary to any wolf who seeks a different way of life.  Abigail Adler escapes an abusive alpha with the help of her close friend, who risks everything to get her out of harm’s way, and the two of them find shelter in Red Rock.  The story follows Abigail and Keith Winston, a Red Rock wolf newly returned from Europe, fighting in the war between werewolves and wizards, who rescues her and her friend while they’re on the run.  As a newly turned werewolf Abby has a lot to learn about her new life and Keith, who is instantly and almost irrationally attracted to her, hopes he will be the one to act as her guide – but it has to be her choice.  Keith was my favorite character in the story, I absolutely loved him.  Part knight, part cowboy, all badass.  And I didn’t hate the hot scenes where Abby gave in to his charms.  Can’t say I blame her really.  Another really fun urban fantasy and I look forward to the next Red Rock book.

After reading Lamb a few months ago I’ve been dying to read another Christopher Moore book.  And of course with my incurable vampire obsession I decided to go with You Suck: A Love Story, which chronicles the new un-life of Tommy Flood after being turned into a vampire by his undead girlfriend Jody.  Tommy’s not exactly thrilled with his new situation and as he struggles to come to terms with being a bloodsucking fiend the pair get themselves in all kinds of shenanigans.  The ancient vampire who sired Jody is after them (you would be too if you were covered in bronze by Tommy’s biker neighbors and turned into a statue) and Tommy’s former Safeway stockboy co-workers have been compelled by a blue hooker (long story) from Vegas to hunt them down.  They decide to accept the dark and brooding (but hopelessly perky) goth Abby Normal to be their minion and run errands for them during the day.  There are whole chapters of Abby’s diary that are absolutely hilarious, and luckily since I’m fluent in angsty-teenage-girl-diary-speak I could understand it all with ease and appreciate it from a former angsty teenage diary author myself.  The book is a laugh-out-loud witty, outrageous, and ridiculously funny window into the mind of a genius wordsmith.  It’s definitely not as emotionally driven as Lamb, although it’s hysterically funny as well, it’s more like a romping adventure.  Unfortunately after I finished it I found out that it’s actually a sequel (Love Bites is the first book).  I had a sneaking suspicion that it might be, based on all the references to events that felt more like I should already be familiar with rather than backstory.  But I’ll just go back and read that one before continuing on with the next book, Bloodsucking Fiends

What are you reading?