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review 2016-09-01 00:00
Little Star: A Novel
Little Star: A Novel - John Ajvide Lindqvist I am going to keep this short and sweet. I am honestly baffled how this made the top 20 list of scariest books out there. I was torn between boredom for a good 1/3 of this book and then just straight up baffled by the time I got to the end.

This story starts out with a man who finds a baby that is left for dead in a hole in plastic in the woods (did you follow that whole thing). Now don't think that you are going to find out why the baby was put there. Or even the backstory to the baby. Instead the book goes into the past of the man who finds the baby (Lennart) and his anger at his wife (Laila) and the disappointment with his son (Jerry). We find out Lennart and Laila were a rising singing duo in Sweden before they failed to make the charts on their newest song.

Lennart is just..I don't even know. I got the sense he felt his whole life was him being wronged and he lashed out at everyone around him. So for him to find a baby and think that keeping it in the basement where he would let no one around it and he would only teach her music that was "pure" because he realized that the baby had a special ability to sing perfectly (also how the hell do newborns or thereabouts sing?) was his ticket to something. I don't know.

I actually did like Laila a bit better than Lennart. I guess I was more confused about what made her stay. She went from one extreme to the other in the book.

Jerry I felt indifferent towards until things picked up after the halfway point.

We also have the baby which is called Little One, Theres and then Tesla as she grows. Don't think reading this book is going to give you any insights into her. I really don't get what she is supposed to be (some type of vampire, ghoul, etc.?)

The book then shifts other to following the family of a newborn girl named Theresa. We have Theresa who does not fit in with her family, who is okay with that after she meets a boy named Johannes. Theresa and Johannes are able to fill each other up in a way there home life does not allow. Until one day Theresa finds she is left behind and feels more apart, until she sees a girl singing on the show "Idol".

There is just so much going on here that I can't really unpack. I think that breaking up the book into so many different sections that had us following Theres, then Theresa, then Jerry, then Theresa, etc didn't help matters any.

We also have so many other characters in this book it was hard to track them all. I ended up really hating Theresa more than Theres though by the end of this book. At least you could excuse Theres for having a really messed up mindset towards big people (adults), but Theresa did not have that excuse. Her final act before going along with a plan thought up by Theres actually ticked me off.

The writing just turned me off halfway through, it was just gruesome after a while and reading how other people were murdering/hurting others just made me a bit sick.

The flow was off. I think it's because there was so much time spent on setting up the backstories to these girls and we stay focused on people who in the end didn't matter to the main story at all (or at least I didn't think they mattered) I found myself bored.

I would have just DNFed it, if it wasn't on one of my must read lists.
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review 2016-07-21 00:00
Let the Right One In: A Novel
Let the Right One In: A Novel - John Ajvide Lindqvist Since I know most people will either have read or watched the movie revolving around this book, I will not focus too much on the summary. Instead, I will just give my overall opinion of what worked for me and did not.

The character of Oskar initially was a little hard to take. He is being bullied and you as a reader feel some sympathy for him. But then we start to realize how dark his thoughts have turned, and yikes. I started to see which way the wind blew with him. I could see why in the end that he and Eli would be perfect for one another.

Eli I felt sympathy for once you heard her backstory. But when you see what she does in order to survive my sympathy stopped in its tracks. I know I should not be okay with "bad" characters coming to a bad end in a book, but I am. The innocent (Virginia) or the people who are just in the wrong place at the wrong time (the young boy, the next door neighbor) I felt terrible for and of course my mind goes back to who came before them.

The character of Hakan was disturbing. I felt uneasy anytime any chapter focused on him, and when we got further and further into this character that uneasiness turned to flat out disgust. I wonder now what happened for Eli to say that Hakan was an acceptable substitute out there for her considering she knew Hakan's proclivities.

I think if the book had just focused on Oskar, Eli, and Hakan it would have worked for me more. Instead the book jumps around a lot to different characters. I got why the author chose to do that since everyone in this book does play some small part in the ending. However, there felt like there was so much "stuff" that could have been cut back to make the book smoother.

The writing was definitely descriptive. A few times I could even feel myself becoming sick. There is one particular scene when I had to stop reading, and go and sniff some lavender because I thought I could smell burning flesh. That's the problem sometimes with having an overactive imagination.

I am also curious why the author decided to changed gender pronouns after a certain reveal. I thought based on what the character said, it would have been better to leave it at what it was before. Then the gender pronoun switched back towards the end so I really don't know what the author was going for there.

However, the flow was not that great to me just because the book felt slightly bloated. I was glad to see some backstory on the characters of Virgini and Lacke, but after a while, I started to go oh lovely them again.

The setting of Sweden in 1981 seems dark and bleak. It's not just dark because it is winter when this story takes place. But it is dark because you get to see a different side to the place with the pedophilia that is taking place.

The ending to me was bittersweet. As readers we know that Eli does not need money. Eli wants friendship, companionship, love, and Hakan cannot give that to her. Hakan wants to posses her and keep her only to himself.

I included some spoilers below to discuss in more details things that I wish had been expanded upon in the book and other things that did not make a lot of sense to me which ultimately is why I gave the book four stars. Please note that the spoiler tags discuss rape and pedophilia and the ending of the book so skip over if you don't want to read.

So I was very confused about why Eli was castrated. She made it seem like it was due to a ritual in order to become a vampire. However, we then see that Virginia and Hakan are turned after being bitten by Eli. So was Eli castrated for the man in the bad wig's own sick pleasure? I wish we knew.

I don't get why Eli ever picked Hakan. We get to see it from Hakan's point of view. But I don't think if I were a vampire that has the body of a 12 year old, I would be okay with a pedophile being my "guardian". The little deals that Eli had to do in order to get Hakan to provide "food" for her sounded distasteful. Maybe though it was something that she was forced to do in the past. Once again some more backstory on Eli would have been great.

So Hakan comes back to life as a zombie and the only thought (can he even have thoughts??) is to find Eli and try to rape her? I don't know. That whole thing was so far-fetched and terrible to read. But I was confused on how he was even getting an erection and I hate the fact that I wondered could zombie/vampires get an erection.

I thought the ending was tragic in its way since either Oksar grows up loving Eli and never having her, and or he is turned to be with Eli forever. So they just keep on killing other people or Oskar goes the way of Hakan. I don't know which ending would be better. I do think that Eli loves Oskar. The scene where she (at that point Lindqvist changes the pronoun so that Eli is referred to as a him) kisses Oskar and Okar sees how Eli sees him shows that Eli did love Oskar.

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review 2016-06-26 19:18
Take it or Leave it, Not for those that want an action paced book
Handling the Undead - John Ajvide Lindqvist

Before you actually dive into this book expecting mad rabid zombies trying to get into your house, while the characters try to survive and scrounge whatever resources they can to make it out into a world turned upside down, you’re not going to find it here. Yes it was disappointing. Is it worth a try? Maybe...maybe not.


In this case, besides the fact that the dead have risen. They’re shells of their former self. Not rabid things we’re so used to seeing. They feed and react to the living’s feelings. (For example if you react with disgust, or hatred, they’ll lash out). Seems interesting. Certainly a different approach. Zombie purists out there probably wouldn’t give this book a second glance. I like trying out different things (just like food!) as there are times when you do come across a gem. Do I consider this one a gem? Not really.


Although it deals with several issues; such as the loss and acceptance of a loved one, or how far would someone go to protect the love one had for someone who was deceased. So in a sense, it’s a book that does make you think (well that mixed with zombies? Sacrilege!) so if you want something for the action fast paced plot, you’re not going to find it here. You want something to slowly digest (har!), read on character development and thinking, and for something to think about then maybe, just maybe this is for you.

My view on this book, take it or leave it. I found it all right. Not the best read, certainly but worth a try just to have a book that actually makes you think about what would really happen in scenarios such as this. Would you sacrifice everything? Or curl up and cry on the floor as the world burns? It’s worth to mull over. Those that want something with raging undead at your doorstep, skip this and go to the next one.

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review 2016-03-05 20:03
"Handling The Undead" by John Ajvide Lindqvist - a truly European take on what would happen if the dead came back.
Handling the Undead - John Ajvide Lindqvist

I've been spending some time in Stockholm recently so I thought I'd read some Swedish horror and who better than John Lindqvist who brought us "Let The Right One In" which was turned into one of the most powerful vampire movies I've ever seen (go here if you're interested).


"Handling The Undead" gives an equally unique and powerful view on zombies. He uses the zombie tropes from "Resident Evil" or "Walking Dead" as pop-culture reference points and then pushes past them to something much more realistic and personal and therefore, much more disturbing.


"Handling The Undead" imagines a freak set of circumstances where,  on a particular day, all those who have died in Stockholm in the past two weeks reanimate and find themselves driven by the urge to go home.


What follows is a thoughtful and emotionally taxing exploration of what it would mean if the bodies and some form of the minds of the dead we have loved and grieved over, came back.


This being Sweden and not the USA, the authorities do not respond with guns and violence but instead are thrown into a debate about what to do with what they refer to as "The Unliving". Their task is made more difficult when it becomes clear that, in the presence of groups of the Unliving,  normal people can hear one another's thoughts and experience each others emotions. This does not lead to peace and harmony. It was fascinating to watch the politicians discuss the rights of the Unliving while the army rounded them up and scientist tried to figure out what was animating the Unliving and to what extent they were sentient.


The actions of the government are a like a news channel running in the background rather than the main focus of the story.  The impact of the Unliving is made real through three stories.


One is of a young child who's recent accidental death has left his young single parent mother and her father drowning in grief and guilt, unable to help each other.


One is of a man who's wife dies in a car accident on the day of the reanimation and who must now cope with the impact of her return, broken and different, on him, his young son and his father-in-law.


One is of a woman and her granddaughter,  both gifted or blighted with second sight, who can feel the presence of the Unliving and struggle to understand what they can do for them.


These stories are harrowing and difficult and focused on the living rather than the Unliving. In their different ways, they are all struggling to come to terms with the necessity of death to give life meaning and whether or not the bodies that have returned are anything more than an echo of the people they used to be.


It is a strange and sometimes difficult book, not a light read, but a compelling mixture of grief and fear and hope.

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text 2016-02-04 14:22
"Handling The Undead" finally, something new that's worth finishing
Handling the Undead - John Ajvide Lindqvist

I'm two hours in to this eleven hour book and I'm relieved to find that it's very much worth reading. I've had three DNFs already this year. I'd have been depressed by a fourth.


I've been spending some time in Stockholm recently so I thought I'd read some Swedish horror and who better than John Lindqvist who brought us "Let The Right One In" which was turned into one of the most powerful vampire movies I've ever seen (go here if you're interested: https://mikefinnsfiction.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/byzantiumand-let-the-right-one-in-european-vampire-movies-confronting-monstrosity/)


"Handling The Undead" is zombies rather than vampires but forget the "Walking Dead" tropes and really think through what it would be like if the dead, especially the dead you knew well, came back.


It's far from an easy read, it's too disturbing on too many levels for that, but it's not boring.

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