Monday, March 31, 2008

Richard Matheson - I Am Legend

When I found out that I Am Legend was based on Richard Matheson's novella of the same name, I was really interested to read the book, especially after realising that the movie took a very different direction from the book. It's a little tough to compare the book to its film version as they really are so different from each other but I think both are good. The "legend" theme takes a slightly sinister twist in the book and the overall tone of the story is darker than portrayed in the movie. I think Matheson did a terrific job in capturing the desolate loneliness of the protagonist and how he copes in such a nightmarish world. The sections where Robert Neville tries to befriend a dog, the first creature he's come into contact with that hasn't exhibited symptoms of the vampire virus, are truly touching and heart-breaking. In fact, in the movie, it is the friendship and bond between man and dog that really affected me as well. Overall, this was a really great read that did not feel dated at all, even though it was first published in 1954.

There were also other short stories included with this novella, although there was no mention of them on the back cover at all. I'm not sure if the original was published like that, or this is something unique only to this edition. It took me a while to figure out that I had actually finished reading I Am Legend! I didn't really like all of them, but most were okay with a few standout ones that gave me the creeps! That to me is what makes a successful horror story. My faves from the short stories were The Near Departed; Prey; Mad House; and Person to Person.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Kristina Jones, Celeste Jones & Juliana Buhring - Not Without My Sister

This book is about three sisters who spent their childhoods in the cult called 'Children of God'. I had never heard of this cult before and it's shocking to know that such an organisation still exists. Some of the things that the children were subjected to were truly disturbing, with adults knowingly and deliberately engaging in such behaviour when they should have been the children's protectors -- just appalling. I am always amazed to see how people can manipulate religion to suit their own twisted beliefs and then propagate those new doctrines and gather new followers; why others even believe and fall for it, I can never understand. I admire the three sisters for their determination and courage in the face of such unimaginably horrific circumstances and their abilities to break free from the cult, picking up the pieces and carrying on with the rest of their lives. My only complaint that it's sometimes a little difficult to follow the timelines from three different perspectives, but otherwise, a compelling read.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

John Connolly - The Book of Lost Things

John Connolly just seems to get better and better with each book of his that I pick up; he's definitely become one of my favourite authors. (Number one will always be Terry Pratchett though!) Even though this is only the third book that I've read by John Connolly, I reckon it's the best so far. I've always been a fan of fantasy and fairy tales, and while Connolly is not the first who has given his own twist on the traditional fairy tales that we know, he weaves them into a unique story of his own and gives them shape and context within his own tale. Especially after reading his own personal views about the book -- these are shared with readers at the end -- this really provides readers greater insight into his thoughts behind certain elements of the book and gives the book deeper meaning. I also enjoyed reading the original versions of the tales referenced in the book and about their origins. Again, this highlights the care behind the thought process of the author; Connolly is truly a master of his craft. This is a definite addition to my list of favourite books, and I will be purchasing my own copy (I had borrowed this from the library) for my personal library, which I am sure I will be reading again and again.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Jeff Lindsay - Dexter in the Dark

I am extremely disappointed with this latest offering by Jeff Lindsay in the Dexter series. Personally, I feel it is shockingly written and just so completely out of tune with the first two books, and strikingly so in comparison with Dearly Devoted Dexter that I've only just read. I think it was completely the wrong move to suddenly plonk in a supernatural aspect to Dexter -- it was utterly ludicrous and so contradictory to the psychological tones of its predecessors. I mean, suddenly, Dexter's Dark Passenger is another being all together, and it just runs away?! Puh-leeze! Plus, those passages about IT were really annoying and bizarre. If they were supposed to send chills down my back, that certainly didn't happen.

When Lindsay introduced the concept of Rita's children turning into mini Dexters in the previous book, that never sat well with me and I detest that bit of the storyline even more so in Dexter in the Dark. As an Amazon reviewer pointed out, not all children with a traumatic past grow up to be sociopaths (and while Astor and Cody had an abusive father, Lindsay never really portrayed any truly horrific experiences for them, as opposed to Dexter, who witnessed his mother's murder and was caked in inches of blood for days) but Dexter somehow ends up becoming a stepfather to not one, but two of them? Not very believable, and also makes for uncomfortable reading - one Dexter really is quite enough.

The character of Rita is also incredibly annoying in the books. On the TV show, Rita is scarred and vulnerable but acquires quiet inner strength for her children, and is most definitely a sensible Susan. On paper, she's whiny and frivolous, and turns into Bridezilla with unreasonable demands for the wedding, which just seems so out of character, considering her past. Maybe it's just that the TV series has shaped Rita so well, but Rita never seems to quite fit in the books.

Ultimately, this was a major disappointment for me. I flew through the second book and could not get enough; with this, I plodded my way through it and came out unsatisfied. Now that Dexter's Dark Passenger has "returned" (in another ridiculous manner), I hope that Jeff Lindsay can focus on getting Dexter right and bring back the Dexter that readers love. The TV series has been brilliant so far, here's hoping that streak continues into the third season!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Jeff Lindsay - Dearly Devoted Dexter

I love the TV show, Dexter, which then brought me to the book, Darkly Dreaming Dexter, when I found out that the TV show was based on Jeff Lindsay's novel. As much as I enjoyed the first book in the series, because I had watched the TV show first, there was a lack of anticipation since I already knew the major plotlines. However, for Dearly Devoted Dexter, I could really sink my teeth into this one as the TV series veered off into a completely different direction for its second season. With this book, I could just fully throw myself into the storyline as I had no idea what was coming and could just go along with it. In this one, there is yet another horrible serial killer that Dexter has to track down, with some truly gruesome and graphic scenes included in the book. Yet -- as ironic as this sounds -- while the subject matter can be heavy (such as murder and pedophilia), the book itself always has a humorous tone from the way Dexter is portrayed. He may be a murderer himself, but somehow, he gets the readers on his side. I enjoyed the second outing with Dexter, although I'm not too keen on the Cody storyline, and the engagement with Rita feels pretty forced as well. I also pity Doakes with the treatment he received in the book -- at least on the show he didn't have to suffer. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, which I already have in my hot little hands. Aren't libraries just wonderful?!

Markus Zusak - The Book Thief

Wow. I don't think I've read a book quite like this one before. While I didn't mind Death narrating the story, I did find the constant interruptions rather annoying at times. I felt they disrupted the flow of the story and although they did contain useful information, they were more irritating than anything else, especially so at the beginning at the book. Nevertheless, these were minor things and did not take away from the brilliance of this novel. While the writing may be simple and plain, it paints incredibly vivid images. I loved the characters and I felt that the emotions they experienced during such a tumultuous time -- joy; anger; pain; love; and suffering -- really came through in Zusak's tale. Although the ending brought me to tears, ultimately I believe this story is about hope and courage despite such horrific and tragic circumstances. I hope this message stays with all readers for a very long time.