Friday, August 31, 2012

First Line Friday No. 4

Welcome Back to First Line Friday!

This week I'm looking at TWO books -- the first and second books of a series I read earlier in the year.  My darling friend Kirsten bought me both of them as a birthday gift (through Amazon, which I LOVE -- they went right to my Kindle!  No shipping required!) and I'm so excited about the possibility of reading the third one that I had to share my enthusiasm with you.

(You can read my reviews of the first two books here and here)

Book No. 1:

"Ms. McMartin was definitely dead.  It had taken some time for the neighbors to grow suspicious, since no one ever went in or came out of the old stone house on Linden Street anyway.  However, there were several notable clues that things in the McMartin house were not as they should have been.  The rusty mailbox began to bulge with odd and exotic mail-order catalogs, which eventually overflowed the gaping aluminum door and spilled out into the street.  The gigantic jungle fern that hung from the porch ceiling keeled over for lack of water.  Ms. McMartin's three cats, somewhere inside the house, began the most terrible yowling ever heard on quiet old Linden Street.  After a few days of listening to that, the neighbors had had enough."

From The Shadows: The Books of Elsewhere,Volume 1 by Jacqueline West

Book No. 2:

"Everyone who lived in the big stone house on Linden Street eventually went insane.  That was what the neighbors said, anyway.  Mr. Fergus told Mr. Butler about Aldous McMartin, the house's first owner, a weird old artist who wouldn't sell a single painting and who only came out of the house at night.  Mrs. Dewey and Mr. Hanniman whispered about Annabelle McMartin, Aldous's granddaughter, who had kicked the bucket right there inside the house at the age of 104, with no friends or family to notice she was dead except for her three gigantic cats, who may or may not have begun nibbling on her head.  And now there were these new owners -- these Dunwoodys -- who appeared to have already bought their tickets for the crazy train."

From Spellbound: The Books of Elsewhere, Volume 2 by Jacqueline West

Creepy, right?  Here's what pulls me in:

1. The Dickensian beginning: "Ms. McMartin was definitely dead."  ...Why add the definitely in there unless...unless Ms. McMartin is going to appear again later in the story?!  Heavens!

2. I love that it's the cats that everyone talks about or listens to -- nobody bothered the house until the cats started yowling, and they're the ones everyone's whispering about -- did they nibble Ms. McMartin, or no?  Gruesome details.

3. The neighbors are shadowy figures, who may or may not be in league with whatever's going on in Linden Street.  Only time will tell...!

4. The gun on the table -- will the new people, the Dunwoodys, be driven mad by the house?  Why or why not?

5. I love the beginning of book two because it lets people in on a bit of the first story in case they somehow managed to skip reading it, but it isn't annoying for a reader if they've already read through the first one.

The slightly dim, grey, creepy tone of the books is delightful.  There isn't another story quite like this one, and even though there are similar elements to other children's fairytales (magical objects, talking animals, etc.), the Books of Elsewhere are more akin to OLD children's stories -- these could be classics one day.  The themes presented in these tales are ones we all struggle with, and that's a big decider on which books continue to be read.

AND NOW -- I have just discovered the third book is out and that you can read the first few pages on Amazon.  Here, then, are the first words of The Second Spy: The Books of Elsewhere, Volume 3 by Jacqueline West:

"If you believe that death is about to spring upon you at any moment, you won't spend much time watching television.  You won't devote a lot of thought to bathing or tooth-brushing, either.  Even things you once enjoyed, like reading, doodling, or daydreaming, will slide right off your daily to-do list. 

If you believe that death is coming for you, you'll do a lot of jumping around corners.  You'll turn on all the lights in every room you enter, even on bright August afternoons.  You will get surprisingly good at walking backward up staircases.  You will never forget -- not even for a minute -- that doom could be waiting just through any doorway.  Your life will revolve between two things: spending as much time as possible with those you care about, and hiding."

THRILLING, isn't it?  I can't wait to have my own copy and dive right in!

So what do you think?  Would you give these books a try?


  1. Totally!! I want to read them right now! Unfortunately, I'd have to buy them first... :-P

  2. I actually found the first two at the library -- you could check there. (They're available in hardcover or on Kindle, I believe) Good luck! They're absolutely fantastic!!

  3. So I was just looking on Amazon and it's really confusing because there is this series, The Books of Elsewhere, and then another series called "The Elsewhere Chronicles" with similar names like "The Shadow Door" and "The Shadow Spies". Kinda weird.

  4. I hate that -- it's because whenever there's popular books copycat writers make money from people confusing them. You want the books by Jacqueline West called "The Shadows: the Books of Elsewhere, Vol. 1" and "Spellbound: The Books of Elsewhere, Vol. 2". Good luck!