Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Companion of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde

Companion of the Night
by Vivian Vande Velde

Summary: When Kerry's little brother forgets his stuffed bear at the laundry, Kerry ventures out at 11th p.m. to retrieve it for him. The laundry is deserted and kind of spooky, and while she's there three men burst in, dragging a bound and bloodied young man they insist is a vampire. Kerry helps him escape, only to be caught up in a desperate game between vampire hunters and their prey.
This book was...well, kind of a let down. But not because it was a bad book, I want to be clear on that. The issue was that I went into it expecting something very different.

Basically, a booktuber I'm subscribed to mentioned that this book was one of her favourite romance stories. And I was in the mood for a good romance, so I thought I'd pick this one up and...well, as far as that went: total let down.

The story itself is good. It was addictive and fun and had that really good pre-Twilight, 90's vampire vibe to it that I loved. If you want to read a vampire story that has more gory, bad/morally ambiguous vampires, this is a good quick read.

But as a romance? I didn't see it as that at all. 90% of the story was basically spent with the dude threatening and manipulating her and aside from the fact she comments on him being hot, there was nothing romantic about it at all. And when it did actually become a romance, it was really quite abrupt -- she literally goes from 0 to "I love you" in a matter of hours and they've only known each other for 2 days total (at least some of it was spent sleeping). She barely knows anything about him because all he does is lie.

Had she said she cared about him, against her better judgements, that I could buy because of the intensity of the situation and all but not love. Because it was so abrupt with no real build up, the scene it all leads to is as bland as reading a shopping list -- like "then he kissed me" and "I love you" would fit right in between eggs, milk, bread and toilet roll.

And the ending... I don't need everything to be neatly tied up but endings that don't have much closure bug me. We find out maybe one or two true things about him in the last few pages and we don't get to see much of the aftermath really. It was just an unsatisfying ending and just in general really.

I don't know if I'd have felt differently had it been recommended differently (i.e. as a supernatural thriller/vampire story rather than a book with a good romance) or if I'd read it when I was much younger before I had so much to compare it to. It was entertaining...just disappointing. And I'm being repetitive so, to wrap this up: I'd rate it 2.5 stars out of 5. Very good read if you're looking for some 90's vampire book nostalgia...just don't go into it with the expectations I had.


Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Ten Literary People I'd Name Something After

The topic of this weeks Top Ten Tuesday is Ten Characters I'd Name A Child/Dog/Cat/Car/Etc. After.

I really love this topic. I'm a bit obsessed with names...probably because I'm a writer, so names are important to me. If I can't get the right name for a character, I can't write the story. Hell, if I don't like the name of a character in a book I'm reading then that can totally influence my reading experience.

I'm going to do a mixture of things rather than just choosing one type of thing. And I'm making it "literary people" instead of characters because there's some author references on my list too.

1. Fitz from Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta - Choosing this one first because I actually have named a thing after him already. I'm one of those people that names gadgets and appliances (no clue why really) and Fitz is the name of the USB that I back up my most important files on (i.e. music and stories, mostly). My current phone may or may not be named Poe, as in Edgar Allen...

2. Hermione or Luna from Harry Potter - Grouping these together seeing as they're from the same series and I'd use the names in the same way: as either middle names for a child or cat names. Hermione has the added bonus of also being a name from Shakespeare's, The Winter's Tale and from Greek mythology.

3. And, seeing as I'm grouping series names together and I'm talking middle names: Isabella, Rosalie, Alice, and Jasper from Twilight -- purely because I love the names (I'd loved all but Rosalie pre-Twilight -- Isabella had actually been on my baby name list after my granny's sister, who died when she was only 11 of meningitis, but Twilight kind of put me off ever using it as a first name).

4. Eleanor from Eleanor and Park - I would totally name a little girl that. I liked the name, but my love for the book made me love it. And while we're on the subject of Rainbow Rowell? I used to not really like the name Georgie for a girl, but Landline made me sort of love it (especially when paired with a last name like McCool).

5. Auden, Halley, Remy from Sarah Dessen books - Sarah Dessen not only has a talent for writing wonderful contemporaries, but she also gives her female characters A+ names. I'd definitely name a kid after one of her characters.

6. Lochan from Forbidden - This one is an odd one. I adore this book and this character, but the subject matter is so taboo and heartbreaking that it makes my love for the name feel weird. But I do love the name and I would even consider naming a kid that. Maybe because I'm Scottish -- I'm not sure if Tabitha Suzuma made up the name, but it has a very Scottish vibe to it (if it's pronounced the way us Scots pronounce it -- LOCK-an).

7. Cosima from Orphan Black - Not a book, but there is a graphic novel/comic of the show, so it counts, right? I would love naming a cat Cosima. Or even a character or the middle name for a child. I love the name and love it even more because of the character -- she's nerdy and adorable and vkjlkfjv. If not Cosima, then Cosmic Creepers because of Bedknobs and Broomsticks...because I'm ridiculous. But that's not literary... Okay, I totally cheated with this one, didn't I.

8. Bronte or Alcott - I would absolutely name a cat one of those (I keep saying cat -- I don't actually have any cats, I have a dog, but something about the names just seem like cat names to me? And I would love to get a cat someday).

9. Elphaba from Wicked - It's really the musical I love, but it's based on a book and that book is based on a classic book, so it totally counts. This is another cat one -- I'd totally name a cat Elphaba/Elphie. And the author of the book, Wicked, came up with the name from the initials of The Wizard of Oz author (L. Frank Baum - LFB, el-fuh-ba).

10. Ponyboy or Sodapop from The Outsiders - I would definitely name a pet this. I did try suggesting the names to my best friend for her tortoise but her husband vetoed them (hasn't read the book), but he was named Darwin instead (as in Charles Darwin), which is awesome too. It would be quite ridiculous calling one of those names out for a dog, but I do like the idea of training a dog to respond to "Stay gold, Ponyboy" 

Honorary mention: Winifred/Winnie from Tuck Everlasting. I used to hate that name and it would just make me think of Winnie from Hocus Pocus (lovelovelovelove that movie, but not the best character to be thinking of when you hear a name), but Tuck Everlasting made me love it. I wouldn't inflict it on a child as a first name though, perhaps a middle name. Or a pet name (as in, name for a pet, not - a pet name for a kid).

There's so many other literary names I adore too but these are the first lot that came to mind when I saw the topic. What about you (assuming anyone is reading), what literary names do you like?


Monday, 17 October 2016

Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson

Where Am I Now? 
True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame 
by Mara Wilson 

Summary: Mara Wilson has always felt a little young and a little out of place: as the only child on a film set full of adults, the first daughter in a house full of boys, the sole clinically depressed member of the cheerleading squad, a valley girl in New York and a neurotic in California, and one of the few former child actors who has never been in jail or rehab. Tackling everything from how she first learned about sex on the set of Melrose Place, to losing her mother at a young age, to getting her first kiss (or was it kisses?) on a celebrity canoe trip, to not being “cute” enough to make it in Hollywood, these essays tell the story of one young woman’s journey from accidental fame to relative (but happy) obscurity. But they also illuminate a universal struggle: learning to accept yourself, and figuring out who you are and where you belong. 
I really, really loved this book. Both the book itself and as an audiobook. Mara Wilson is an excellent storyteller, and hearing her narrate her own story was a wonderful experience. There's something about people narrating their own biographies -- they get the tone perfect because they know how it should be told, it just adds and extra layer of something that doesn't come across in the text version.

I'm very bad a reviewing biographies. Fiction is easier, because the people and lives aren't real. I can talk about character development and the plot and what/who I liked and didn't like. I can't critique a biography without feeling like I'm an asshole, or feeling weird in the ways I'm judging it because it's real...there's a real person in every line of it, real experiences. But, I'll try:

I'm far from being alone in my adoration of Mara Wilson -- her portrayal of Matilda was such a huge part of my childhood (a part I happily and nostalgically passed onto my niece because its timeless), but in the past few years, I've been a fan of her online presence too. Loved seeing little glimpses of the person she's become since her days as a child star. Online, she comes across as funny, intelligent and just a pretty good person in general.

This book, it fills in the stuff that happened in between her movie days and the person she is now. Tells the bits of her life we didn't get to see back at the height of her fame and stuff that happened after. You'd think it would be hard to relate to someone whose life seemed to be so vastly different from what most of us experience, but it wasn't and I was surprised by how many moments of "omg, me too!" and "yes, that! that's exactly how that felt!" there was in the book. I was surprised by how much of her story was so like my own, particularly the struggles with mental illness and the loss of a parent at a young age.

It reminded me, once again, that *Famous People* were still just that: people. 

While the behind the scenes glimpses we get of her movie days were excellent, my favourite bits of the book were the simple human experiences that we all go through -- the loves and losses and awkward moments, the family stuff, the figuring out what we believe in and the process of finding our place in life and learning to accept ourselves. 

That's the heart of the book and that's what I loved about it (although I did also really love the way she describes what it's like to be a woman, her experiences universal in a lot of ways but amplified because unlike most girls, she was growing up under public scrutiny).

I cried multiple times listening to this (once, almost in the middle of a public park because unfortunately, it got to the heartbreaking bits about Robin Williams mid-walk). But it made me smiled a lot too (probably looking a bit creepy in the process to anyone walking past me).

This book, it wasn't about Mara Wilson, the child actress. It was just Mara, the whole person, not just the little bits and pieces we've seen over the years (well, as whole as you can condense into a biography). Her grief, her anxiety and insecurities, her high points and lows and I have a lot of respect for her for having the courage to share it like this.

I normally struggle to focus on audiobooks. I have a few audiobooks I started listening to last year that I'm still not finished yet... I listened to this one in just two days. It was that good. I'd rate it 5 stars out of 5.



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