Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tamar Katz Official Website

With some delay but here it is:
Tamar Katz Official Website

Friday, July 24, 2009

Book Reviews: Neil Gaiman - Coraline & The Graveyard Book & Stardust


I don't particularly remember if I reviewed the movie Coraline; I remember at the time thinking that it was entertaining, fun and highly imaginative, while not being exactly my cup of tea. This spring at the book fair I had the chance to hold the book in my hand and I hesitated wondering what to get since I wanted to read something by Neil Gaiman. Neverwhere and American Gods won in the end, partially because they were bigger and because I had already seen the movie. I don't regret getting Neverwhere as I quite liked it and I wouldn't mind reading a sequel to that one, but I can't say the same thing about American Gods. The part of the book that I liked was too small compared to the price paid for it. But back to Coraline...

The book is about a little girl who's just moved with her parents in her grandmother's house. It must have been a pretty big house since the groundfloor is occupied by two former theatre permormer old ladies, there's an odd man training a mouse circus in the attic and there's also an empty apartment left in addition to Coraline's. They have a big garden with a well, but that fails to keep the girl entertained for long. Her parents are too busy with work to pay attention to her, which leaves Coraline to spend most of the time by herself and potentially up to no good.

There's a locked door inside the house apparently leading to the empty apartment. When unlocked though, once it opens to a brickwall, while another time it leads to a tunnel Coraline is eager to explore. She enters another dimension in which everything seems to be better compared to every day reality, especially the perfect pair of parents who only want to love her and take care of her. Of course that's only up to one point, then the plot thickens and Coraline finds herslef caught up in an adventures at the end of which she has to find the souls of three children plus her real parents in order to set them free.

Except for a few details, the movie stays true to the book sufficiently enough. But after having read Neverwhere I can say I'm satisfied with it. The simple text with basic writing is obviously aimed at children in the 9 - 12 group and I simply can't get back to that age no matter how much I try. Come to think of it, I am pretty sure I wouldn't have liked it even at the appropriate age, and then it would have nothing to do with the writing style, but with the content. I'm just not into creepy things...

The Graveyard Book

...which now sounds odd considering the next choice on my reading list. The Graveyard Book was recommended by a friend and picked up with some hesitation. I trusted the friend but not so much the outline written on the back cover. A boy raised by ghosts inside a cemetery? It sounded too much like a children story. And it is but once you pass by the general impression it becomes much more.

The life of the boy, named suggestively Nobody, since infancy until becoming a teenager is described with great detail, focusing on his interaction with other inhabitants of the cemetery, the problem of providing him with food, which is taken care of by his guardian who can interact with the living, his lessons at home, the appearance of a werewolf tutor from Romania, his public school experience and his adventures during several years.

There's a mystery/crime plot which deals with the murder of his family and the reason why he's only safe inside the graveyard. Another plot relates to a girl who becomes his friend and helps him in his search for truth and revenge. Both plots are secondary and less developed than one would expect them to be but that isn't really bothering in the end, the experience is fulfilling the way it is.

To say that Gaiman's writing style has evolved a lot since Coraline is probably an exaggeration since the two can't really be compared. But the story runs smoothly immersed in a fully developed fantasy world, not lacking a touch of gore and creepy things ever so present in Gaiman's work.

In another words I liked it, which I honestly can't say about...


When the Stardust movie came out, after all the promotion they made for it, I remember complaining that I had been expecting much more. Now that I think about it the movie wasn't so bad after all. Naturally, before starting reading the book, I was convinced I was in for something very good. Well, not quite...

The screen adaptation is better than expected, adding something that the book is lacking, and I'm not talking only about the pirate scenes, which I had found too over the top at the time mind you. As a side note, the book starts with a clumsy sex scene only to continue with almost no adult content at all, which makes it highly unbalanced. Furthermore the relationship between Tristan and Yvainne is under-developed and the epilogue is rushed and unfit to end such a story.

Even if I could pass by that and buy it all, I found it very hard to read because of the amount of accolades. Using them in writing is very easy, and I used to do it too, but I had to read this to realise how bad it looks. So never again.

And now I'm off to write a story about a girl who glows in the dark, and hopefully do her the justice that neither the book nor Claire Danes did. I have to, 'cause after all... Stardust is my penname in some circles.