Thursday, October 31, 2013

A very Happy Halloween to you!

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This is a new photo I took and modded.  This little boy is found in Woodlawn Cemetery in Des Moines, Iowa.   Nothing like finding a headless figure .... and then making it a little spookier with some photo effects.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Miss Peregrine sequel coming soon!!!

Hollow City, the sequel to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs, is coming soon!   I absolutely loved the first book, so I am all kinds of excited for this new book to arrive.  

Quirk Books has an excerpt, if you'd like to see it (and then also get all kinds of excited for the book to arrive).  I wish it were coming in time for Halloween, but it won't be here until January.   sigh.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Review: Reality Boy by A.S. King

Summary (courtesy of Goodreads):  Gerald Faust knows exactly when he started feeling angry: the day his mother invited a reality television crew into his five-year-old life. Twelve years later, he’s still haunted by his rage-filled youth—which the entire world got to watch from every imaginable angle—and his anger issues have resulted in violent outbursts, zero friends, and clueless adults dumping him in the special education room at school.

Nothing is ever going to change. No one cares that he’s tried to learn to control himself, and the girl he likes has no idea who he really is. Everyone’s just waiting for him to snap…and he’s starting to feel dangerously close to doing just that.

In this fearless portrayal of a boy on the edge, highly acclaimed Printz Honor author A.S. King explores the desperate reality of a former child “star” who finally breaks free of his anger by creating possibilities he never knew he deserved.

And here's what I thought:  I admit that I don't really watch much reality tv based on people's personal lives.  What I mean is, I watch Top Chef and American Pickers, and once in a while, I admit to a few episodes of Counting Cars and House Hunters International.   But, I don't have much interest in watching any of the Housewives or the Karsdashians.  Just not my thing.

However, when I read about this book a few months ago (when I ordered if for my library), I was completely intrigued.  Because even though I don't watch reality TV shows that focus on the personal lives of people, it doesn't mean that I'm not aware of them.  And I sometimes wonder what life is really like for some of them, especially after the show has finished.   This book takes that premise and gives us Gerald, a young man who is working on managing his anger issues, and just getting through his life. His family is completely dysfunctional (and actually, a little hard to believe .... but then, if you think about some of the f-'d up families on TV, maybe not too hard to believe after all), and it's easy to see why Gerald is so angry.

What I found really compelling about the book is that you have this 17 year-old who is talking about what's going on his present-day life, but reflecting back on moments when he was 5, and on camera all the time.  It's a perfect way to see how much his life has been shaped by what happened when he was a small child, and how, even now, as a young adult, he is still struggling.   The author has a way of making everything seem very realistic, and Gerald's a very sympathetic character.   The way that he reacts to not only his family, but the other kids at school (who, of course, think they know everything about him, since they watched the TV show), and even strangers he encounters.   In fact, the one encounter he has with a woman at a hockey game is one of the most touching moments in the book (at least, I thought so).

And speaking of characters, while Gerald is compelling, the supporting characters are really well-written, as well. His one sister, Tasha, who is his main tormenter, is seriously scary -- sociopath scary.  And his mom is scary in a different way, because she seems to tune out everything and act like Tasha's perfectly fine.  Reading about them is like seeing a car crash on the side of the road; you don't really want to look, but you kinda can't stop yourself.

I really enjoyed this book, even as I worried sometimes for Gerald, because I got completely caught up in it.  I found myself wanting to reach out and give this kid a hug, because I felt that connected.

First lines:  I'm the kid you saw on TV.  Remember the little freak who took a crap on his parents' oak-stained kitchen table when they confiscated his Game Boy?  Remember how the camera cleverly hid his most private parts with the glittery fake daisy and sunflower centerpiece?  That was me.  Gerald.  Youngest of three.  Only boy.  Out of control.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Review: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Summary (courtesy of Goodreads):   On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky twelve-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of devoted readers of The Shining and satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.

And here's what I thought:   I finished this book, choked up a little, and said, out loud to myself, Good Book.  Good Book!

If you weren't already aware, this book is the sequel to The Shining --- and while you don't need to have read the book (or seen the movie) to enjoy this book, it doesn't hurt to have some of that background knowledge.   At the end of the book, in the author's note, King says, "I enjoyed finding Danny Torrance again and following his adventures.  I hope you did, too.  If that's the case, Constant Reader, we're all good."     I have not read The Shining in several years, but that didn't stop me from remembering parts of it, and having enough to link things together in this book.

This book, like Joyland, reminded me of what I really enjoy about some of Stephen King's books: the great storytelling.   I find I get swept up in the characters, and the story, and the steadily increasing pace, and then time just slips away as I turn the pages.   I appreciate that King doesn't rely on blood and guts to relay the sense of horror.  I delight in how he conveys the sinister things that we may see just out of the corner of our eye, the shadowy bits just slipping around a corner, and the sense we have about some people that something's just not right.   I enjoy his characters, especially young women like Abra in this story, who are smart.    I like that the characters are often pretty realistic people (even if they might have some extra special qualities) and are fallible, and that their faults can threaten to undo them completely.   I appreciate the supporting characters, who often have more to them than meets the eye.   I'm always pleased that there are little bits of humor to periodically lessen the tension.

I also like that King gives me no guarantees.  There is no guarantee that all of the good characters will make it through the book unscathed, or even alive.   There is no guarantee that once they discover the bad person or people, that they will triumph in their first meeting.   I can't necessarily predict what's going to happen, and it keeps me invested, and turning the pages.

If you don't think you like Stephen King, try this book.   Well, maybe try Joyland first.  This book benefits from a read-through of The Shining (and don't think you can get by just on the movie alone .... while the movie is pretty good, it's nowhere near as good as the book).  I think anyone who thinks "Stephen King = horror" should perhaps try my spin on him: Stephen King = one helluva storyteller.

First lines:  On the second day of December in a year when a Georgia peanut farmer was doing business in the White House, one of Colorado's great resort hotels burned to the ground.  The Overlook was declared a total loss.  After an investigation, the fire marshal of Jicarilla County ruled the cause had been a defective boiler.  The hotel was closed for the winter when the accident occurred, and only four people were present.  Three survived.  The hotel's off-season caretaker, John Torrance, was killed during an unsuccessful (and heroic) effort to dump the boiler's steam pressure, which had mounted to disastrously high levels due to an inoperative relief valve.

Note: this book goes towards fulfilling my goal for the Chunkster Reading Challenge -- at 528 pages.


We have reached October, my favorite month.  It's my birthday today -- and while that's not why October is my favorite month, when I get to this day every year, it's a good time to reflect and also to look ahead.

To me, October means cool weather (please!  after enduring summer, I would like the coolness to kick in ....), apples, leaves changing color, and Halloween.   It's a good month to start back up with more visits to cemeteries.   And, it's a good month to post some cemetery photos.

Happy October, everyone!

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