The perfect book to read on Halloween

Happy Halloween to you all!

Some people may want to be out and about dancing tonight:

dance

This can be fully recommended, because who doesn’t like wandering around at night and taking sweets from strangers? Right? But if you do prefer a quieter night in, away from all the ghouls and glamorous costumes, then you should definitely read The Monster We Deserve by Marcus Sedgewick.

Here is why:

  • It is set in an atmospheric and chilling cabin in the middle of the woods. There can hardly be anything more tonally appropriate for Halloween than that, as that is a classic settings for all horror stories ever. It almost seems like this book is and isn’t a parody of all horror stories. It contains all the classic features: ghosts, cabin in the woods, a victim and a monster, but there is a twist which is…
  • Frankenstein (and his monster)! This isn’t clear on the blurb, at least for the copy I bought, but the content of the book is about the protagonist’s encounter with Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein (read my review of that here). So there is a double blow of an amazing story (Frankenstein), within a ghost story (the actual text). This  may be a parody of Frankenstein too, as the fictional author complains about how many stories within stories there are within Shelley’s work!
  • The title is just so compelling. I mean- ‘The Monsters We Deserve“. I did not even look inside the book before I had decided to read it. This is the power of marketing, people. But it worked, so I guess it was fine to succumb to it in this instance. Yet actually think about that phrase. Do we deserve the monsters we get in life? Do we? DO WE?!
  • It is short so that you can read it in one sitting. Like on Halloween. 263 pages may sound like it is too weighty a tomb to tackle in one go, but actually the margins are very wide and many pages have artwork on them, so it is surprisingly fast to go through. This makes it perfect to read tonight, on the spookiest of nights.
  • The message of the book. Yes, it is about monsters and so links in with the witches/ mummy/ zombie/ creepy theme, but it is actually much more philosophical than that, because the “moral” of this book is that our actions define us. That “we are responsible for our creations“, and if we do not manage these creations or our actions carefully, they will grow out of our control and take on their own life, which in turn affects us. In an everyday situation, it may be that something you say will be taken wildly out of context; if you do not manage that carefully then people could end up accusing you of horrendous things based off rumours drawn from something which isn’t true to start off with. Just look at celebrities. It really is a powerful message worth noting.
  • The Front cover and the artwork inside the book is exquisite. Really. There are some forest drawings in the book which truly complement the content, whilst the cover is aesthetically pleasing. It is a book you do not want to hide away in your shelf, with only the spine facing the world. No!

the monsters we deseve

 

  • It is so quotable:

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not himself become a monster” (This is actually Nietzsche, but is featured in the book anyway)

“we are responsible for our creations”

“That is what Victor’s true crime is; not that he creates a man, but that, having created one, he does not care for what he has created”

“Monster means to think. A monster means to think. So all our thoughts are monsters?”

“Our creations end up creating us, in return. Create a lie, and you become one.”

 

So there you have it. Have a wonderful Halloween you spooky creatures and I hope that you have as much fun as these guys seem to be having!

cat 4 cat 3.gif

Am I a Bad Person because I judge a book by its cover?

We have all been children before. Even the really old, nasty neighbour you had when you were 5, who would shout at you for playing football against their wall. Even them. So growing up we all heard the phrase

“Don’t judge a book by its cover”

Welp, that is a nice metaphor. But it exists for a reason: judging things quickly is easy and, unfortunately, can be very informative. You can determine if someone is rich or physically fit by their appearance. Stop- stop the barrage of abuse coming my way!

snob.gif
Footage of me diving into arguments in the comments section

This is a generalisation, but it works for the extremes. If someone is wearing Gucci (which, by the way, someone once told me “was chavvy”. I wonder which group they could be lumped into), then they are definitely not poor. Equally, if someone is living on the street, then they are decidedly not wealthy. (The fault with this is in the gray areas: if someone is moderately wealthy then it can be hard to see where precisely they lie. They do not wear designer, but it is not rags either (then again Silicon Valley guys do dress like a homeless people) .) Ahh double brackets; never a good sign!! Anyway, the same applies to books: is it easy to judge them in the most extreme cases, because books which are of a high quality will be signed onto major publishing houses, and therefore will have beautiful covers, so that they sell better. Books which are self-published will usually have very plain or self-drawn (!) covers. No  one aspires to be self-published. The reason why decent ones makes headlines, like Eragon, is because how rare high quality is in that sector. So generalisations can be made: is it worth reading 99 awful-looking books just to find one good one, or should we just read 99 great-looking books, and risk finding one terrible one?

Take Refuge:refuge.jpeg

There is something so captivating about that cover; something so thoughtful. I have never read it before, but the quote “Rich and colourful” from The New York Times matches the painting precisely, no? So clearly this image has been chosen carefully, and if the publishing house has spent all that money on the design, then they are backing that book to be successful. These people edit books for a living, so they will know a crowd-pleaser when they see one. Now, sometimes I do question how a book has gone past so many people and yet still has glaring spelling mistakes and inconsistencies (ahem “What Milo Saw” by Virginia MacGregor), but this is a rare phenomenon. When I do dislike something in a book, I do appreciate that it is not the publisher’s fault necessarily but merely a matter of my own (never quite humble enough) opinion.

Even a book like-spurious.jpeg

-has such an intriguing cover that you cannot help but buy it. Because riddle me this: have you ever, in a shop, tasted the cake before you bought it? Or eaten their pizza before ordering it? No? Well then you judged their food by the restaurant’s cover: their staff and interior design. You have no idea, really, how well the food will be cooked on that particular night. It is just like, how, even if you have read some of their books before, you never know quite how good their next one be. J.K.Rowling found this out the hard way… if she did not want to hear the honest truth, she should not have written under a pseudonym!

On the other end of the scale, there are books with the shoddy covers. I am not going to put some of the worst images on here, because I started researching books with terrible covers and I ended up with some shockers. There are some so bad that my eyes started bleeding. Also, I do not want to pollute this website. All I am saying is, the title of one the books was “Now That I’m A Ghost I’m Gay”. If that does not have you running for the hills, then I do not know how to help you. There are some very funny ones out there, too, particularly here on Bored Panda, but the top two were:

worst-book-covers-titles-15
I think I will pass

and

worst-book-covers-titles-26
I do not think this is in international dialogue, actually, since it this published in 2007

These are examples of either unfortunate titles or simply- well, I am not sure how to excuse that last one. “Fine!” You say. “But these really are not that bad. That international dialogue part sounds interesting, so why judge? You cannot say that these do not have the potential to contain something interesting?” Well, Imaginary Dialogue Friend, what I can say, is that there are certain covers which would have me scrambling for anything, even Hello Magazine, just to escape looking at them a second more. Like these:

book-covers8.jpg

I want someone to look me in the eye, right now, and tell me that they would want to read them. And no, Shawn James, you do not count. Maybe even you do not even want to read these. Oh, and it does not count if you tell me this out of spite. I know you shady people out there.

So yes, you definitely can judge a book by its cover (and if you still disagree, please do read the two books above and leave a review in the comments below Xx ). Secondly, no I am not a bad person for doing this because it simply makes common sense: I can read a beautiful book which is more likely than not a stimulating Pulitzer Prize winner, or a grimy looking one, written in a garden shed, which is so awful that they had to self-publish.

We all have limited time in this world, so go ahead, make that judgement and do not give the side eye to those admit to doing the same.

There are a few occasions where snobbishness is acceptable, and this is it.

pig
You have full permission to fling that waste of paper 

My Winter Challenge

You have obviously read my earlier post about my favourite sentences ever 😉

Of course you have, and you loved it. So you will be outrageously excited to hear about my Winter Challenge, where I am going to write a short stories with each one opening with the lines of those books.

Interestingly, I have read most of these classics, so it will be a bit of challenge to try and move away from what I already know happens.

Until then…

classy

10 BEST FIRST SENTENCES EVER

Hmmmm, like smelling a cookie straight out of the oven, reading these legendary first sentences bring two things with them:

Joy from the act itself and excitement at what is to come.

 

1. Augusten Burroughs, Sellevision 

“You exposed your penis on national television, Max.”

 

2. J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

 

3. Paul Auster, City of Glass

It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not.

 

4. Felipe Alfau, Chromos 

The moment one learns English, complications set in.

 

5. David Markson, Wittgenstein’s Mistress

In the beginning, sometimes I left messages in the street.

 

6. Donna Tartt, The Secret History

The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation.

 

7. Lynda Barry, Cruddy

Dear Anyone Who Finds This, Do not blame the drugs.

 

8. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Someone Has Been Disarranging These Roses

Since it’s Sunday and it’s stopped raining, I think I’ll take a bouquet of roses to my grave.

 

9. Helen Oyeyemi, Boy, Snow, bird

Nobody ever warned me about mirrors, so for many years I was fond of them, and believed them to be trustworthy.

 

10.  Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

What To Do When Hardy Gets You Down

One book, a two-week holiday and very low motivation to read it.

Yes, I have been set Far From The Madding Crowd to read. This is how it makes me feel:

bored.gif

and also this

pain2

when I realise I have to spend most of my holiday

a) mentally preparing myself to read it

b) actually reading it

c) recovering from the inane and mind-numbing experience that occurs whilst reading it.

Ladies and Gentlemen; I think this website explains my dedication to the art of reading. But not all books are the light of my life and the fire of my loins: far from it. Already once this year I have battled against Hardy, in Tess D’Urberville. I was not sure who would win that particular battle, but lo I surfaced from that struggle the victor.

1 – Me, 0 – Hardy and his evil designs.

Gone! I thought. It has been read, and suffered through, and now no more 19th Century rabbling. I thought I was safe in my English Class, as we have been studying Plath and Hughes poetry for the past 7 weeks. Well, my good luck has run out, as I have been set Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd as holiday work. I must say, I was seriously considering doing a cheeky read of the summary, but then I thought no! I cannot have a book blog and behave in such a manner.

So every night I slowly made my way through it. In a week I read no more than 30 pages. Given that my copy had 328 pages  (I know this off the top of my head as I kept on having to reference it to see how much more I had left), I would not finish in time for our first class back.

I had no hope. Like a runner whose legs are burning with lactic acid, I had tried so hard to succeed and yet felt like I going nowhere and in severe pain. Until! Until I remembered the magic that is skim reading. This is what got me through in a rapid (but orderly) fashion. Now, before you moan and complain, remember that Hardy spends 90% of the time describing a blade of grass in the field, or the countryside, which really are not relevant to the plot, which is the main thing I need.. Controversial, but ultimately true. So my top tip for getting through Hardy, is this: 

Focus on reading the dialogue properly, and skim everything else.

This sounds stupid, but it works remarkably well. Of course, some descriptions are important, but then if they are and you have missed them you can always go back and read that specific section properly. If you get to speed through ten pages, and have to re-read one paragraph on the eleventh page, surely it is worth it, as opposed to having finely-comb everything?

Of course, this method will not work for many other books where things actually happen, and the writer more cleverly adopts symbolism etc. that affect later events in the novel. Also, I know that I am going to be studying this in class, so I do not need to have an amazing working knowledge of the text: I just need to understand what is going on, and then later we will together go through the themes. Lastly, do not do this if you enjoy a book! I hate Hardy, so I just wanted to get the experience over as quickly as possible so that I could get onto something I really liked.

I hope this helps all my fellow students out there who have good intentions but low motivation:

bill.gif