Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

by Angie Hilbert
( November 4th, 2014 )

Let the Right One InLet the Right One In is the story of a bullied schoolboy and a lonely new-girl becoming friends in the working-class suburbs of Stockholm. Oskar, who lives with his divorced mother, occasionally sees his alcoholic father on weekends. He meets Eli, a new girl who moves in next door with a man presumed to be her father. They meet on the stark, cold playground of their apartment complex, become friends, and help one another through the trials of being young and vulnerable in an adult world. It sounds like a sweet coming-of-age story but it is not!

Oskar is just inches from snapping and murdering his classmates in revenge. Eli… well… Eli is a vampire. (Not a spoiler, the reader figures this out pretty early.) Each in their own way stirs both pity and horror in the reader. This book is the anti-Twilight. Sure you have your vampire/human star crossed lovers, but they are both more threatened by human horrors than supernatural ones. Being a vampire is not Eli’s only dark secret. Oskar finds her second secret far harder to accept. Think “Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” meets “Tuck Everlasting” and you have the weird tone of Let the Right One In just about right.

What Wander Readers Will Love:

  • Let the Right One In does a great job of letting you into the every day lives of working class Swiss people. The school system, transportation system, infrastructure, police, mainstream media, all feature at least a cameo.

  • In addition to the lives of Oskar and his parents, you also get a glimpse of the working class lifestyle in Sweden from several families and individuals. Their lives overlap and interact but each has it’s unique dynamic.

  • I don’t know where you sit as you read this, but here in Ohio, people are already grumbling about the approaching winter. In Let the Right One In, you get to know people for whom winter is normal and even enjoyed. It might help you anticipate the approaching cold with a little less dread.

What’s your favorite vampire story? If you read Let the Right One In, let me know how it ranks in the Vampire cannon for you.

Read ~ Write ~ Wander


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NaNoWriMo Countdown!

by Angie Hilbert
( October 28th, 2014 )

I’m grounded. Going back to school full time (in addition to my full time career) has left me with little in the way of travel resources. I’ll be sticking exclusively with armchair adventures until I finish my second degree. Not that I mind that much. I have a boundless imagination and easily get swept up in my books. But one of the greatest literary adventures is just around the corner. NaNoWriMo!


National Novel Writing Month

     It’s only a few days until NaNo-eve! (Some call it “Halloween”) The night when WriMos from all over the world will stay up until midnight, put everything else on hold, and begin to write 50,000 words in only 30 bleak, November days. It’s a literary adventure unlike any other.

     For those of you new to this kind of literary abandon, allow me to elucidate: NaNoWriMo was established on the principle that you (yes, YOU) have a novel inside you. But your story can’t find it’s way out because you are so busy with work, school, family, The Walking Dead, and, you know, life. So you make a change. Not a forever-and-always kind of change, just a for-the-next-thirty-days change. You give your story 30 days of prioritized, undivided attention. The goal is to write at least 50,000 words (the bare minimum to be considered a novel length manuscript) and see what your story can do on the page.

     You aren’t allowed to erase words or edit until December. Just let it all pour out in a catharsis of prose. By the end of the month, you will have written a great 50,000 word mess. But it’s all yours. You will have some bad writing to edit but that’s still way better than a great story locked away in your head. You will have developed a writing habit. You will have learned to set writing goals and make writing a priority. And if you are very lucky, you’ll have the first draft of something special and embark on a revision.

     Since I will not be taking a trip this November (as is my usual custom). I am more dependent than ever on writing to take me away. I’m going to let my NaNoWriMo project take me back to Cambodia. For those who want to follow my journey or to add your own project to the manifest, you can check it out HERE. You can also keep track of my progress on the widget in the upper left corner of the blog.

     It’s an amazing journey into your own subconscious. It’s an intellectual marathon. It’s an excuse to swill coffee and eat chocolate! The possibilities are boundless. Come join us.

Bon Voyage!

Read ~ Write ~ Wander


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Amazon Burning by Victoria Griffith

by Angie Hilbert
( October 21st, 2014 )

Amazing Burning by Victoria GriffithIt’s getting cold. Time to read about warm places. Brazil! Amazon Burning by Victoria Griffith comes along just in time for an armchair escape from the looming winter. I have been hearing a lot about this new genre of “new adult”. With the popularity of young adult fiction reaching across to adult readers, authors have embraced the formula of the young but tough girl coming of age. But there are still taboos in place about what you can and cannot put in a book marketed to minors. “New adult” is the answer! You still get a fresh young protagonist, she is just 20-25 instead of 14-19. This translates into many of the same coming of age issues you find in young adult literature but in this age bracket, publishers don’t shrink from adult issues like sex, drinking, drugs, or crime. You can raise the stakes while reaching much of the same audience. I was interested in checking it out.

Emma has to get away for a while. Her college career is in jeopardy and lawyer advises her to get out of town to avoid the scandal. She heads off to Rio on the pretext of taking a journalism internship with her reporter-father. There she does anything but lay low. A famous environmentalist, and friend of her father is murdered. While attending the funeral, Emma finds herself championing the indigenous tribes, defending the environment, foiling a poaching operation, and ultimately solving the murder of her father’s friend. Not bad for a semester off.

What wander~readers will love:

  • Victoria pulls off that delicate balance of showing you her setting for what it is, warts and all, while clearly loving the land she talks about. No false idealism or romance about the land or it’s local people. She talks about the high crime rate and shows how the characters have to negotiate it. She talks about the hopelessness of making any lasting difference in a corrupt system while still empowering the protagonist to take action. Victoria clearly loves Brazil for what it is. Not for some ideal tourist fantasy of it.

  • While there is a romantic interest, it’s presented in a thoroughly modern way. It’s not swoony and has just enough of a hint of machismo to ring true to the culture but still fully respect Emma agency. The romance is not pivotal to the plot though it does provide a reason for the guy to hang around and keep working with Emma.

  • Amazon Burning puts you there. You get a brief overview of Rio, you realistically navigate the Brazilian transportation system. You spend several days in the jungle. You hang out in a small hotel in a jungle town. You even visit a tribal village. Which brings us to the next point and my most favorite thing about Amazon Burning.

  • The book lets you get to know the Yanomami tribe. There are several indigenous and half-indigenous characters  that are fully three-dimensional. Victoria gives them significant roles to play and complex cultural issues to navigate. I get so sick of the cliche of the noble savage being protected by the great white champion. Victoria grants a level of self efficacy to several native characters you don’t often see in genre fiction.

So, after reading Amazon Burning (and you really should) you might be curious about the Brazilian rain forest and the Yanomami people. Here are a few suggestions for your follow-up reading. (I know I’m not the only wander~reader to do follow up non-fiction reading after a novel brings me somewhere as interesting as this!)

Brazil: The Troubled Rise of a Global Power

This discusses the historic and economic contributions of Brazil and how the Rainforest is both provider of of and victim of it. If you are curious about the complexities of saving the rainforest, this is the book for you.

Into The Heart: One Man’s Pursuit of Love and Knowledge Among the Yanomami

I suspect this man was largely Victoria’s inspiration for writing her novel. The murdered environmentalist and his family in Amazon Burning bear a striking resemblance to the story of this anthropologist. Of course (spoiler alert) you’ll be happy to know Kenneth Good is still alive!

The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman

As you might have gathered from this post, I’m a strong believer that people should speak for themselves. The Falling Sky is a Yanomami shaman speaking to us rather than some anthropologist explaining him to us.

What are your favorite Amazon books?

Read ~ Write ~ Wander


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