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!

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Book of the Month June- The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick

An astounding, sharp novel, with a twist (literally…) I adored this smart novel- the concept behind it was original and I loved the refreshing style using the short stories: the book is split into four stories, and each one has a completely unique storyline, set in various stages of our time on Earth, including the future:

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The first story, Whispers in the Dark, is set in the stone age, and is written in lyrical prose, which is a contrast to what is normally found on YA bookshelves. It was interesting. Except personally I found that the language was too simplistic, although this may have been intentional on Sedgwick’s part because it is told by a girl whose community haven’t formulated language yet. Still admirable what can be illustrated with few words though.

The second quarter, called The Witch In Water, is set in the Puritan times and opens with the funeral of the protagonist’s mother. It is during this time period being accused of Witchcraft was common practise, and when a replacement priest starts to dominate the town, the unsuspecting girl is put on trial for being a witch.

The next story is the Easiest Room in Hell and personally my favourite out of the four. This was because it was took place in a 1920s lunatic asylum and was a bizarre, yet slightly unsettling setting. It follows the work of a new doctor, as he not only befriends one of the inhabitants, but learns of the dark secrets lurking between the asylum’s walls.

The final story is The Song of Destiny, which is set on a spaceship. It is set in the distant future and is not only an incredibly philosophical tale, but also brimming with mystery. This is because the meagre number of passengers onboard the spaceship is starting to rapidly deplete- but clearly these deaths are not natural. There is a murderer onboard the ship. But who?

The best thing about this novel is that it is written in a way that these quarters can be read in any order, (that’s 24 different combinations,) and it will still make sense.

I enjoyed reading these short stories because they were completely self-contained, and each one was entirely distinct to the others, both in form and style. This means that the stories can not only be enjoyed as snippets of a wider message, but as creative stories in their own right.

Each quarter has a slither of information linking it to the next, (whichever next story you may choose that to be) and this aspect is ingenious and fabulously well-thought through.

Most notably, the spiral is a core motif in this book, recurring continuously, as it reminds us of the continual nature of the universe; after you read this novel, you start to notice them everywhere! I chose this novel to be the book of the month because I think that this is one you can read again and again and you will still find intelligent nuggets of information you didn’t notice the first time around. Also, it is utterly unique to any other book I have encountered before (which is quite a few). So it definitely deserves credit.

She is not invisible by Marcus Sedgwick

An intriguing and unusual novel about the struggles of growing up, especially in a world where unseen obstacles are everywhere.

she is

Laureth Peak is concerned when she receives an email from a stranger notifying her that they have found her father’s notebook. To add to that her father has not replied to her texts and calls, which made Laureth feel alarmed.  Based on this minimal evidence, and a gut feeling, she takes her 7 year old brother with her and embarks on a journey to New York, the place where the notebook had been found.

I thought that the book was well-written, mainly because Sedgwick made the characters stand out, as well as likable. There was a variety in the characters, however I disliked that (spoiler) in the end, the antagonist of the whole novel was just a stereotypical robber. One you can find in most books. I thought that the novel had lots of potential because Laureth is blind, and this was an interesting perspective to take; I think in some scenes Laureth’s blindness was portrayed very well, yet at other times you almost couldn’t tell, so I thought that there should have been more of a balance or a constant way that Laureth saw the world, as it were.

Laureth has an amiable character; she is intelligent, thoughtful and resilient. And she’s blind. I loved this twist because it gave the book an unusual perspective which is rarely found in novels. It makes you appreciate your sight even more, and how everything we take for granted, like going on our phones, becomes so much harder and complicated due to a disability. And it was because of this that I drew comparisons between She Is Not Invisible and The Curious Adventure… as they both feature teenagers with a varying disabilities. Lots of people in the novel were prejudiced against Laureth just because she couldn’t see, and despite this Laureth would still carry on and continue to be irrepressible, which I thought was inspiring because she didn’t let it get in the way of her plans. My favourite parts in the book was when she was interacting with her younger brother, because that showed that even though Laureth was in charge, due to her age, there was still a lot of dependence on her brother because of her disability. And then there were completely normal conversations between them which was a curious contrast.

Benjamin is Laureth’s younger brother. He was helpful and cheerful enough, showing all the characteristics that a 7 year old boy would normally have except one. Whenever he touched an electronic device, it would turn into a black mirror and become useless. This was an unnecessary trait for Benjamin to have, because it made the novel at times have a slightly unrealistic feel, where Benjamin was almost had a superpower, making it hard as a reader to know if this was meant to be novel happening in our world, as that kind of trait only belongs in fantasy.

Aside from the characters, the plot line in itself is quite weak, because it is a big leap to go from, my dad has not answered my texts, and has lost a precious notebook to HE’S GONE MISSING, and suddenly go on a journey top find him.  As I mentioned earlier, I think it is a shame that the plot was mundane in a way, because in today’s world there are hundreds of people who have written books about people going missing, and this one wasn’t that different except that the protagonist had a visual disability. Yet in the book, this wasn’t expressed enough, enough at least to make the book ‘different’ in my mind from all those other similar stories. I also thought that the bit he mentioned about Laureth’s school seemed to captivate me really quickly, but it was only mentioned in several paragraphs, so I would have preferred to have had a bit more information about that aspect of Laureth’s life!

All in all, I’d rate this book 7/10, because it had an interesting perspective and was well-written, but was let down because of a slightly unoriginal plot. Enjoy!