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Category Archives: ingliskeelne kirjandus

Emily Carroll. Through the Woods

New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2014

It is a tale of a young girl late at night, lying down in bed to read a few horror stories. In order to postpone the moment she has to stretch out her hand over the precipice of the bed to shut off the light – the moment she’d be most vulnerable to the monsters lying in wait to grab her and drag her away.

And that’s the first three pages of the graphic novel. The ones that follow take a bit longer in order to better drag you, the reader, into these weird and fantastical tales of dread and horror, building up to thrilling climaxes. Now, that might make it seem as if the twist is everything, but there are no „Sixth Sense“ kind of „elaborate construction, hinging on one act of illusion“ twists here – these stories tell of people in unreliable relationships starting from a place of abnormal and growing more and more disconcerting as reality is forgotten and the new order of things seems to demand their very being as their fellows, trusted or mistrusted, change roles and shapes as the drawings leave constraints and flow over the borders and across the pages.

In most of the stories we also follow the actions of young women, which does seem to be the norm in horror (at least when talking of horror films, which are more of my forte), but how refreshing it is to read good horror stories that lack sexist sentiments nor resort to naive princessy-characters out of their depths who mostly stay afloat thanks to their American goodliness, and while there is a character somewhat similar to that in here as well, her story is quite a different one from that of horror cinema and closer to a twisted Bluebeard (as if that wasn’t twisted enough).

Let’s stop for a moment on its wonderful visuals that beg to be called beautiful. The whole book is a packet of delights for the eye that enjoys comics which care little about fitting into neat boxes, but use the whole page as a canvas for the emotions of the characters. And while neat boxes are no sin, my eye falls most in love with such as this and Craig Thompson’s „Blankets“ (a graphic novelist telling the tale of his youth), their adventuring drawings turning the story into something magical, and while in „Blankets“ it added an otherworldly dimension to a realistic tale, here it adds an extra layer of strength to stories already dripping with dread.

A word also for Carroll’s typography – the words themselves are part of the tale, not only drawn as an integral part of the image, but changing colour and size and creeping across the page or standing still and cold, just as the story demands in order to enhance the atmosphere.

However, all the pretty drawings in the world would not be enough for a comic to be good and what a wonder it is that Carroll manages to also fit the bill in storytelling – did I say ’fit’? No, she far surpasses it using her drawings to fuel nightmarish tales that linger in my memories. There is more than a touch of fairy tale to them, but not the kind of pretty morals, but the kind that keeps you up in night, fearing what moves behind the windowpanes.

Now, I feel that even though I have described Carroll’s ability to combine drawings, typography and top-notch storytelling into a masterful gothic graphic novel, filled with dread, atmosphere and beauty, I still haven’t emphasised enough how much I recommend it. It was a book I purchased almost on a whim, looking for unconventional comic books of horror, and amongst the few I selected (and of them several I liked), this was the finest, and I consider it one of the better additions to my bookshelf, wishing to force it upon anybody I know, only held back by what are considered inherent limitations by many, it being a comic book, and a tale of horror. You though, our wondrous reader, are hopefully of stronger stock, so enter, dearest, this path through the woods lined with crimson cobblestones and tall dark trees and see what stories you’ll get to find and experience before you in turn are found by the wolf and devoured whole.

 

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Lauri Heinsalu
Tallinna Keskraamatukogu vabatahtlik

 

 

Kiersten White. The Chaos of Stars

New York : HarperTeen, 2014

 
Sixteen-year-old Isadora is the daughter of Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris. While a child she adored her beautiful mom and mysterious father and believed that she was immortal like them. Until the day she realized that she’s not going to stay in this world eternally like her parents, instead she’s going to die and her parents don’t do anything to stop it. For Isadora it means only one thing: her parents don’t love her enough to keep her forever.

Feeling hurt and unloved, Isadora is planning to leave Egypt, if she only knows how. When she gets the opportunity to move to San Diego, to live with her older and favourite brother for a while, Isadora jumps on it without hesitation. She starts working in the museum, finds new (or can I say, her first) friends and eats too much sugar. And then there comes a boy. The gorgeous boy with most breathtakingly blue eyes who understands her and is there for her if she needs him. After it turns out that everything is not as well as it seemed and the danger is lurking in the shadows, Isadora needs help more than before.
Isadora is very angry, stubborn and selfish girl who thinks that her parents doesn’t understand her. Some may say that she is annoying, but I think that she seems real, she is sixteen after all. We all have been there in our teenage years, when we were angry at the whole world and thought that our opinion was always right. Thus, even if I don’t agree with everything Isadora says and does, I understand her very well. I think that the author have captured teenage spirit well indeed.

And what is more important, the book has great character development. Over the novel you can see Isadora growing and becoming more understanding and reasonable. She starts admitting her mistakes and realizes that her mother was right. Thus, for me, the novel is mostly the story about becoming an adult.

Mythology part is rather secondary, just background for the mother-daughter relation story. If you are searching serious Egyptian mythology book, then I don’t recommend it. But if you want some quick and light reading with some bits of magic, then give it a go.

 

There are two extra points I want to give to the book:

  • One for the beautiful cover that was the cause I picked up this book from library shelf altogether.
  • Second for the romance plot. Even if it was quite cliché, at least there was NO love triangle. Finding young adult literature without love triangle can be quite challenging.

 

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Hanna Laasberg
Department of Estonian Literature

 

Melinda Salisbury. The Sin Eater’s Daughter

sin-eaters-daughter-melinda-salisbury

London: Scholastic, 2015

The Sin Eater’s Daughter combines a fascinating fantasy world filled with unique mythologies, unpredictable twist and a heroine whose only touch brings death. This is the first book of future series.

Seventeen-year-old Twylla is part of the royal court of Lormere where she serves as the Daunen Embodied, a role believed to be appointed by Gods. Her touch is poisonous. Her single touch, one fleeting brush against her skin will bring death to anyone except the members of the royal family. She is the Queen’s weapon, the executioner. Each month, she’s taken to the prison and forced to lay her hands on those accused of treason.

A traditional love triangle between Twylla, the prince, and Twylla’s new guard creates emotional tension. Twylla is betrothed to the Queens son whom she has met only a few times some years ago. She leads a lonely and solitary life. No one wants to spend time in the company of a girl with murder in her veins.

But then a new guard arrives and sees the girl within and is not afraid of her nor her deadly gift. The temptation her new guard brings to Twylla’s heart is natural.

And as will be expected, the Prince returns to the royal court and seeks out Twylla as his future bride. Twylla is surprised at the attentions the young Prince begins to lavish upon her.

One of my favorite aspects of this story was learning about the mythology behind Daunen, and what it really means to be Daunen Embodied. The prison cellar with strange rituals is scary, but realistic. The Queen is mad, vicious, but convincing.

Through some dark twists and deeds by the Queen, Twylla has to stand up to the challenges she faces.

All those components together, and Twylla making a strong heroine in the end, make an enjoyable read with unexpected twists and a fabulous ending.

 

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Eha Elmi
Librarian
Department of Literature in Foreign Languages

 

„I remember you“ by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

i remember youLondon : Hodder, 2013

 

It has been a dream of mine for many years to withdraw into the woods of Konguta parish near Karijärve lake to restore the century-old farmstead my paternal grandfather acquired as a summer residence for his growing family. These romantic daydreams were decisively snuffed out after reading I Remember You, written by the Icelandic queen bee crime novelist Yrsa Sigurðardóttir. No, the plot did not revolve around the monumental cost and effort of renovating and maintaining old buildings that have been left to rot for decades. Rather, Yrsa’s parallel story-line made the thought of living, working, and sleeping in a secluded homestead unbearable in the wake of the most chilling ghost story this seasoned horror aficionado has read in a long while.

Three young city slickers and their decidedly hardier puppy set out to the harsh Icelandic West Fjords with high hopes and meager supplies of refurbishing a derelict house into a Bed & Breakfast destination. Across the sweeping fjord a middle-aged psychiatrist is unwillingly but inevitably beginning to connect the dots between various nasty occurrences that surprisingly reference back to his own traumatic loss a few years ago. Frequent cups of coffee seem to be one of the few ways to loosen the tongues of a cast of northern characters. Thus Freyr, the doctor, reluctantly collects hints and clues that slowly drizzle from the mouths of his patients while stubbornly avoiding his ex-wife’s insistence to re-examine the circumstances of their son’s unexplained disappearance. Meanwhile, Katrín, Garðar, and Líf are aimlessly puttering around their house in Hesteyri and just as adamantly rationalizing the ever-growing feeling of empty dread brought on by flitting shadows, pools of salt water, menacing giggles, and vile smells emanating from the very cracks they are trying to mend. Like a loose braid that weaves into a tightly-woven fish-bone, the two parallel story-lines cumulate to unveil the capacity for human cruelty and neglect so base, the supernatural aspect of the story seems almost tame. Almost, but not enough to suspend belief.

The syntax and vocabulary of this translation will not go down in the annals of greatness but Yrsa evokes a compelling atmosphere both of the Icelandic outdoors as well as the strangely looming indoor settings. If not previously familiar with Nordic Noir, the reader will get a crash-course in reading and differentiating between the myriad selection of blank expressions speaking volumes in the faces of its characters. This novel is a sturdy stand-alone in Yrsa Sigurðardóttir’s series of crime novels (also sprinkled with a fine dust of the supernatural) starring the lawyer heroine you’d want on your side any day, ​Þóra Guðmundsdóttir.

If a book cover boasts by-lines such as “…not to be read alone after dark…” I usually laugh out loud and proceed to do just that. My laugh petered out to a smirk at the end of chapter two and then formed a tight lump of dread that still resurfaces every time I am drawn back to re-reading this excellent supernatural turn-screw.

 

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Kadri Rebane
Librarian
Tallinn Central Library
Department of Literature in Foreign Languages

 
 

Nicholls, Sally. Ways to live forever

VKO_lugemissaal_20150226_171257_001London : Marion Llyod books, 2008

Recommendation for children in grades 4-6.

This novel touches upon the sensitive topic of death and specifically death by cancer. It is told in a form of a diary written by eleven-year-old Sam who has leukemia. He decides to write a book since “nobody writes about ill children” and indeed there is not many child cancer patients’ life stories out there written in a way for children to actually understand and identify with. The first person narration gives a realistic and emotional overview of Sam’s last months of life. He writes about his antics with another cancer patient Felix, who is Sam’s total opposite – mischievous cynic. Sam also writes about his family relations that differ from ones of a family with healthy children, but not much. The last months of Sam’s life are dedicated to completing the list of things to do before he dies, the list he thought was only a bunch of unrealistic ideas, but where is a will, there is a way for no one wants to die with regrets.

All children ask questions about death. This book does not have all the answers, but some written in a simple way for children to understand and believe since the one who is explaining is their peer and not an adult who wants to smooth things over.

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Olga Ivaškevitš
Väike-Õismäe branch library

 
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Posted by &emdash; 26. veebr. 2015 in ingliskeelne kirjandus, jutustused

 

Westerfeld, Scott. Leviathan trilogy

Leviathan

  1. Leviathan. New York : Simon Pulse, 2010 Check e-catalogue ESTER
  2. Behemoth. New York : Simon Pulse, 2011 Check e-catalogue ESTER
  3. Goliath. New York : Simon Pulse, 2012 Check e-catalogue ESTER

On the 28th of June 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir presumtive to  the Austro-Hungarian  throne, and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, were poisoned in Sarajevo.  This assassination led to the beginning of the First World War with Clankers – Austria-Hungary, Germany and the Ottoman Empire – going against the Darwinist alliance – Russia, United Kingdom, Japan, France and later USA.

The son of Austrian archduke, Aleksander had to flee to Switzerland to prevent being killed by the terrorists who were allegedly hired not by the Bosnian government, but by Austria so that the long-awaited war could begin…

Anyone who is familiar with the world history and specifically World War I will be confused by the aforementioned description. Who are Clankers and do Darwinists have any connection to Charles Darwin? Scott Westerfeld’s novels are written as an alternative history and depict the Europe of his imagination in the beginning of the twentieth century. Two powers, two diametrically different lifestyles, face off in one of the most infamous conflicts in the world history. On one side there are the Clankers, who believe in the power of the machine. They use motor engines and create machines for all possible human needs. Their military equipment is mainly comprised of gigantic walker robots. On the other side are the Darwinists, who support nature and see “no point in creating a new system when you could borrow one already fine-tuned by evolution”. They “fabricate” beasts, changing the already existing animals to fit their purposes.

The two main characters of the trilogy also come from the opposite ends of the spectrum. His Serene Highness Prince Aleksander of Hohenberg travels incognito with his entourage to escape the Austrian walkers. Or as incognito as he manages, since a born and bred prince cannot become a commoner overnight. By fate he finds himself on the board of a British air…hmm, let’s refer to him as an air beast, “Leviathan” that was fabricated from a sperm whale with dozens of other beasties ‘on board’. Also on board is midshipman Dylan Sharp, who in reality is Deryn, a girl whose love for aeronautics makes her forgo the generally accepted conventions of the time.

Throughout the trilogy the Leviathan takes our heroes above and beyond Switzerland, the Mediterranean sea, Constantinople, Siberia, Mexico and New York. Each of the locations is given in vivid and detailed descriptions of their landscapes and cultures during the beginning of the twentieth century, which significantly differ from the modern ones, while some aspects are left very recognizable. Westerfeld interweaves fantasy and reality in a very original way, bringing out real facts that are not generally known, but also giving cameo appearance opportunities to such historic ‘celebrities’ like Winston Churchill, Charles Darwin, Nikola Tesla, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and other researchers and inventors whose creations we use today.

Despite the books being mostly for light reading, there are also deep philosophical topics hidden between the lines. One of them concerns personal identity crises. Both Alek and Deryn are in their teens, only starting out, not entirely sure what their place in life is. But the circumstances make them become somebody else. Their struggle to maintain their assumed identities is beautifully written. The narration alternates between the two, so their personality traits are brought out with even more clarity.

The trilogy is written for young adults, but can be read by anyone who likes fiction in the steampunk genre with action-packed military operations’ sequences, quirky secondary characters, revolutions, political intrigue and romance that borders on the impossible. And that is not all. In addition to the thrilling adventure, the books have a rare feature – stylish black and white illustrations of all characters, beasts and machines.

 

Olga Ivaškevitš
Väike-Õismäe branch library

 
 

Ned Vizzini. It’s kind of a funny story

It’s kind of a funny storyIlmunud: New York: Hyperion, 2007

 

“Shhhhhh! Healing in progress.”

Claig Gilner suffers from depression. Not because of loneliness, bullying, having a broken heart, having abusive parents or the lack of friends. He does not stay holed up at his place, drowning in alcohol and drugs and blaming the world for all his problems. No, Craig is only fifteen and he is afraid to “fail in life”. He completely abandoned his social life for a year to prepare for an entrance exam to a special high school – the school where graduates enter Yale and Harvard and then head right to Wall Street. If one does not get into a prestigious university, one cannot get a good job and get paid well. Without the money one cannot pay for the apartment and the bed where one sleeps and thus will be tossed out onto the street to become homeless and therefore have one’s life become completely worthless.

This is how Craig think. All these thoughts, combined with excessive school workload made him afraid of becoming a failure, “afraid not to die, but to live.” And one night, when the inability to eat and sleep becomes utterly unbearable, Craig decides to jump from the Brooklyn bridge. Being the levelheaded person that he is, he ends up in an adult psychiatric ward, instead of a river, with a rather colorful set of individuals all dysfunctional in their own way.

Drawing from his personal experience, the author tells the story of a struggle to be normal. However, it is not told from the point of view a psychotic person who is angry at the world. Not at all, it is an authentic story about the process of understanding oneself and those around him. It’s about talking to doctors, taking prescribed drugs and feeling better or as low as it can possibly get. Craig’s ‘lament’ is full of teenage antics, overall humor and search for love and happiness. The book gives a positive outlook on depression: it is okay to be that way, “everybody is on medication, anyway”, it is okay to visit physiatrists. Day by day, chapter by chapter, the readers witness the process of healing described in a bit of a quirky way, but the funny story still entails the depth of a philosophical novel.

So now live for real. Live. Live. Live. Live. Live.

 

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Olga Ivaškevitš
Väike-Õismäe branch library