5 Books About Twins

I love books about twins so much I thought I’d put together a list of some of my favourites.

  1. Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews
    This was the book that started my love affair with twins in literature and is the story of 4 young children locked in an attic by their Grandmother. Their father has died and the children are living in their gothic grandparent’s house waiting for the Mother to successfully acquire some money from her strict Grandfather who detests the children. Gradually their mother visits less often and the children are largely left to their own devices. This is a classic YA novel with gothic undertones and themes of greed and betrayal.
  2. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
    This book is in my Top 10 favourite books of all time. Vida Winter is a successful author and has decided to tell her life story now that she’s dying. She’s given many interviews over the course of her life, but each time she tells a different story. This time she’s serious about revealing the dark truth about her past and Margaret Lea has agreed to be her biographer. But it won’t be easy.
    The novel makes countless delicious references to stories, books and reading and I revelled in the language.
    Here’s a sample from the book: “Do they sense it, these dead writers, when their books are read? Does a pinprick of light appear in their darkness? Is their soul stirred by the feather touch of another mind reading theirs? I do hope so.
    Naturally the plot includes twins and the wonderfully haunted Angelfield House forms the backdrop of the novel in a charming and menacing way. In addition to being a brilliant book, The Thirteenth Tale is also major BBC film starring Vanessa Redgrave and Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones).
  3. Beside Myself by Ann Morgan
    Beside Myself is a psychological thriller and suspenseful read looking at themes of identity and mental illness. Twin sisters Helen (domineering) and Ellie (submissive) play a game one afternoon to swap identities, but Ellie won’t change back. What happens next is an ever growing divide between the sisters and the subsequent decline of one of them. As the consequences of the game last a lifetime, I couldn’t help but wonder what I would have done in Helen’s situation
  4. A Dark Dividing by Sarah Rayne
    Continuing the suspense theme, A Dark Dividing is about conjoined twins born 100 years apart and how they’re connected. Alternating between the past and the present, and across 3 different periods, the novel reveals a number of shocking secrets as it progresses.
    Author Sarah Rayne loves to include a creepy building at the centre of her books and this time it was the suitably scary Mortmain House. Originally used as a workhouse for men and women who would otherwise die of starvation, the living conditions at the house were horrendous. Children abandoned at birth or born to families unable to care for them all ended up here and suffered terrible treatment as a consequence.
    As the title suggests, A Dark Dividing is a dark read and I enjoyed finding out how all the characters were connected.
  5. The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
    Another gothic novel featuring twins in a creepy estate is historical fiction novel The Distant Hours by Kate Morton. Edie is a book publisher and when her mother receives a long lost letter originally posted in 1941 from Milderhurst Castle, her curiosity is piqued. Her mother is secretive about her past, but Edie finds out she was billeted at the castle for a short time during the war.
    Edie visits the crumbling castle and meets the three elderly sisters residing there. Twins Percy and Saffy live together with their younger sister Juniper and the reasons they each chose to stay at the castle after the war and why they never married or had children inform the plot. Something happened to bond the sisters together for life and it was a thrill to discover. The characters love to read, write and tell stories, and all shared a love of books. The reference to the library in the castle made me weak at the knees.

I hope you enjoyed this list, but I’ve just noticed that almost all the twins in my list are female. I can’t even think of a novel with male twins, can you? Further reading: The Ice Twins by SK Tremayne and The Silent Twin by Caroline Mitchell.

The book or the movie? The Martian by Andy Weir or The Martian with Matt Damon?

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir by Andy Weir has a fabulous back story. Initially published chapter by chapter and made available for free on the author’s website, readers soon fell in love with the story. First, they asked him to make it available as an ebook, so they could enjoy it on their e-readers rather than having to read it from his website. Fans then asked Weir to make his novel available as a Kindle ebook on Amazon, and the rest is (as they say) history. The novel took off, and Weir sold the rights in 2013 for more than $100,000US.

The Martian is a science fiction novel inspired by the TV hero MacGyver and the fix-it scene in Apollo 13, and has now been adapted for the big screen in a film starring Matt Damon, directed by Ridley Scott. The movie is in cinemas now and having adored the book, I went to see the movie last week, hardly able to contain my excitement.

Matt Damon plays astronaut Mark Watney in the film The Martian, who is injured and left behind on planet Mars after a dust storm. He must overcome many obstacles in order to survive the harsh conditions and come up with a plan to ensure he doesn’t starve before help or supplies arrive.

The novel by Andy Weir is funny and clever, with complex science somehow made accessible to the average ‘layman’ reader, even for first time readers of science fiction. Sections of the novel are log entries recorded by Watney and are laugh out loud funny. Watney’s ingenuity and character really shine through in the book and Matt Damon did a magnificent job playing the character in the movie.TheMartian film poster

There were some marked differences in the movie adaptation that are worth noting though.
– The book contains quite a bit of scene-appropriate swearing, and without it in the movie, Watney’s character loses a little of his edge.
– One of my favourite scenes (where Watney spells out letters on the surface of mars with rocks) wasn’t included in the film and I couldn’t help but be disappointed.
– The names and nationality of several supporting characters were changed for the movie, and I have no idea why.
– The trip in the rover forms so much of the book (it’s over 3,000 miles) but in the movie, he seems to ‘arrive’ at his location without the audience being aware of the true perils of the journey.
– They changed the ending. I won’t elaborate so I don’t spoil it for anyone, but some of the changes in the movie improved on the original ending and some were a waste of time.

The Martian was one of my favourite books of 2015, and I knew it’d be hard to match on screen, but sadly the movie left me wanting more. At 141 minutes duration, the film is longer than the average block buster, but the time really flies. It was entertaining, and on its own, a very fine movie, I just thought the book was better. Such a cliche right?

So, what’s your opinion, which is better? The Martian movie or The Martian book? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

9781780891897Ernest Cline set the nostalgia/nerd levels to stun in his debut novel Ready Player One. In his latest novel he turns it up to blast in a science fiction adventure story literally ripped straight out of your favourite video games and sci-fi movies. Have you ever thought you could take your video game skills out in the real world or imagined that your favourite science fiction movie was actually real? Well strap in to your starship and get ready to blast off in this action packed adventure.

Zack Lightman has spent his short life lost in video games. His whole life is centred around getting through school so he can get back to playing his favourite game, a combat flight simulator where players must take on an alien invasion force. He works after school at his local game shop before jumping into the next online mission at home. But when he sees one of the alien spacecrafts he does battle against on his way from school he starts to doubt his own sanity. A very real fear because his father, who died just after he was born, left behind some bizarre notebooks detailing a vast alien conspiracy between the US Government, Hollywood and the Video Game industry. A theory Zack thought was the ravings of a mad man who he might just be starting to believe!

Mixing an 80s soundtrack with some of the best sci-fi movies and video games of the last thirty years Ernest Cline has created an action-adventure story worthy of the movies he references, even down to the slightly cheesy ending. While this doesn’t reach the heights of Ready Player One it was still an immensely fun read that’ll have your gaming hands itching.

Buy the book here…

Books At The Movies

Use the promo code “atthemovies” and get FREE postage.
Offer ends 20th Oct.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

The most addictive page turner of the decade! Nick returns home of his 5th wedding anniversary to discover that his wife Amy has gone missing. He contacts the police and reports her missing. Meanwhile you read portions of Amy’s diary detailing how she and Nick met and the cracks in their marriage. Then Nick admits to lying to police and the rolelrcaoster ride begins! Jon

The Drop by Dennis Lehane

This is absolute vintage Dennis Lehane. Lehane effortlessly bring his characters vividly to life. This is a true craftsmen at work, building his pieces, putting them together and then sadly watching them fall apart. If you have ever wondered why such high praise is heaped upon Dennis Lehane, The Drop is why. Jon

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson

Christine wakes in a strange bed beside a man she does not recognise. In the bathroom she finds a photograph of him taped to the mirror, and beneath it the words ‘Your husband’. Each day, Christine wakes knowing nothing of her life. Each night, her mind erases the day. But before she goes to sleep, she will recover fragments from her past, flashbacks to the accident that damaged her, and then-mercifully-she will forget. Chilling, exquisitely crafted and compulsively readable, this is a psychological thriller of the highest order.

This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

Poor Judd Foxman returns home early to find his wife in bed with his boss – in the act. He now faces the twin threats of both divorce and unemployment. His misery is compounded further with the sudden death of his father. He is then asked to come and ‘sit Shiva’ for his newly deceased parent with his angry, screwed-up and somewhat estranged brothers and sisters in his childhood home. It is there he must confront who he really is and – more importantly – who he can become. Funny, moving, powerful and poignant.

A Walk Among The Tombstones by Lawrence Block

Big-time dope dealer Kenan Khoury is a wealthy man. One fine spring morning his wife Francine is kidnapped and a ransom is demanded. Kenan pays and his wife is duly returned to him-in – small pieces in the boot of an abandoned car. PI Matt Scudder is left to speculate on the motives of a very unusual kidnapper. And soon he is on the trail of a pair of ruthlessly sadistic psycopaths whose cruel games have only just begun…

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

When the doors of the lift crank open, the only thing Thomas remembers is his first name. But he’s not alone. He’s surrounded by boys who welcome him to the Glade – a walled encampment at the centre of a bizarre and terrible stone maze. Like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they came to be there – or what’s happened to the world outside. All they know is that every morning when the walls slide back, they will risk everything – even the Grievers, half-machine, half-animal horror that patrol its corridors, to try and find out.

Player Profile: Terry Hayes, author of I Am Pilgrim

hayes, terryTerry Hayes, author of I Am Pilgrim

Tell us about your latest creation…

“I Am Pilgrim”. It is an epic book – an international spy thriller which is the story of one of America’s greatest intelligence agents. he retired young – sick of living in the shadows and by-passed by the huge changes the war on terrorism have wrought. He comes out of retirement, tasked with chasing and finding a mysterious man called The Saracen who has brought back to life the world’s most deadly virus. The mission takes Pilgrim back into his past and from England to Germany, Saudi Arabia to Santorini, Bulgaria to Turkey. And a host of countries in-between. It is a harrowing race against time and, full of false leads and shattered hopes. A story that is not resolved until the last paragraphs on the final page.

Where are you from / Where to do you call home?…

I was born in England, migrated to Australia as a five-year-old, was raised in Sydney where I became a journalist and later went to Los Angeles to work in the film industry. Myself, my wife and four children are now residents of Switzerland.

9780593064955When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?

Always a writer. I cannot remember a time when I wanted to be anything else except a writer.

What do you consider to be your best work? Why?

I think my best work is Mad Max 2 and Dead Calm in movies; The Dismissal, Bodyline and Bangkok Hilton on TV; and I Am Pilgrim as a novel. On the movies and TV mini-series I was both a writer and producer.

Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?

Orderly to me! Chaotic probably to anyone else. Two computers and screens – in case one goes belly-up – lots of notebooks and pads with notes and research, pictures of my kids for inspiration. A few movie posters – Payback, Dead Calm, From Hell – to remind me that I have written stories before and I can do it again.

When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?

Newspapers, magazine articles – once a journalist, always a journalist – useless information which often, very surprisingly, proves to be very helpful. The
internet has given instant access to wonderful information and articles from all round the world. Books? Classics and whatever is recommended to me – usually by my wife.

What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?

Anna Karenina – a classic that moved with all the pace and emotion of a great thriller; Catcher in the Rye; The Great Gatsby; Shogun; anything by Herman Hess – it was eclectic if nothing else!

If you were a literary character, who would you be? 

Pilgrim from I Am Pilgrim. I wrote it as first person account and there is a lot of me in it. Or at least what I would aspire to be – courageous and true, intelligent when it’s needed, self-effacing and modest. My wife, on the other hand, says the character is completely fictitious – so maybe I’m just deluded.

Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?

My main occupation is to operate The Paceman cricket bowling machine to a) stop my two young boys from braining themselves with a fast ball and b) attempt to improve their batting skills. I hate to say it – but Australia needs them.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

Anything healthy for food – Japanese fits the bill perfectly. I love sushi and tempura. Sake, in the Rocks in Sydney, serves outstanding food in my opinion. And no, they haven’t bought any books in return for that glowing endorsement.

Who is your hero? Why?

In my own life – my wife. She has never faltered in her belief in me and my work. She has encouraged, cajoled and threatened me. I would never have been half the writer I am – whatever that may be – without her. She has also been a terrific mother to the most important thing in my life – the four children. She likes dogs too, which is never a bad thing!

Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?

Good stories, however you define that phrase. Storytelling has been with us since men first sat around fires in caves and it will be with us long after we have colonised other planets. It is wound deep into our DNA and that is not going to change any time soon. Delivery systems, technology, public taste are always changing and presenting challenges. If we think the ground is shifting now – imagine what monks copying texts by hand must have thought when they heard about something called the printing press. As long as their are people, there will be  eaders and they will need stories. Books – and book-selling – have succeeded, so far, in adapting to new technology where both the movies and, especially, the music industry have failed. The great thing about books is that personal recommendations mean more than in any other popular art form I know of – for that reason the highly-respected book store, staffed by knowledgeable people, will always play a crucial role in this whole enterprise. On-line stores may have a role to play and present real challenges but they will not replace a good bookstore any more than Wal-Mart replaced great local shopping areas.

Buy I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes…

The Movie Curse

Against every sensible bone in my body’s advice, I made a trip to the movies for the 2010 remake of Clash of the Titans, starring that gorgeous Aussie, Sam Worthington. My first mistake. Having adored the 1981 version, I of course had high expectations of this new adaptation. This was my second mistake.

No matter how hard I try, I can’t help but have preconceived notions of how an adaptation should behave. I mean, these people, these ‘director geniuses’ and ‘prodigy scriptwriters’ are taking a perfectly good baby, mixing the DNA up – prettifying it *here* and simplifying it *there* and suddenly you find yourself looking into the face of a stranger. A boringly symmetrical version of someone you once knew, perhaps treasured for its depth, its ‘ugliness’. Now completely ruined.

I fancy myself a bit of a movie critic (though not a great one) – I hang on every word of David and Margaret’s, and throw about such gems as ‘completely amateur scriptwriting!’ and ‘that plot had more holes in it than a boxful of broken sieves’ with the greatest of ease. I’m sure my movie buddies live in terror of the final credits rolling, me blasting the crud out of a movie which ‘was pretty funny, had some romantic bits’, or at least they thought it did until I opened my fat trap.
It’s because of this critical mindset that I’m scared to count how many of my favourite books have, in my oh-so-humble opinion, been ruined by  the silver screen. Dystopian Sci Fi features in particular are (a bit) hit and (mostly) miss for me (why, oh why did they change the ending to I Am Legend?), and it’s why I’m too afraid to watch The Road, despite loving – or perhaps BECAUSE I loved – Cormac McCarthy’s desolate masterpiece. It’s all I can do to stop from getting down on my knees and praying to the movie gods that John Marsden’s Tomorrow series receives proper justice (it’s set for release later this year). Please please PLEASE be good! Please!

I’m resigned to the fact that turning a fantasy book into a movie seems to run a dangerous gauntlet for investors, fans and producers alike. Perhaps it’s because it requires such a suspension of disbelief, that the special effects have to be more than special, the characters have to be more than protagonists, they have to be HEROES. No other genre (besides paperback romance) lusts after its main character as much as fantasy literature does. To be honest, the last time I truly enjoyed some book-to-movie (or movie-to-book) adaptations was back in the 80s, early 90s. True story.

Yet somehow, despite all my whinging and my frenzied vow never to watch anything surrounded by hype ever again, the glittery promise  of the silver screen bringing my favourite characters to life just keeps sucking me back in. Me paying 17 bucks a pop in the vain hope that I’ll feel one tenth of the devastation I felt when Artax drowned in the mud, or the excitement mixed with dread as Westley faces off with Vizzini over the poisoned cup. Such is the mystery, and the poisonous allure, of the movie curse.