Category Archives: Books

Books I Sincerely Regret Reading

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*These are just my opinions. Don’t come for me.*

Being an adult, it is rare that I am mandated reading outside keeping up with what I assign my students, though it happens yearly when I take classes for continuing education credits. Basically, reading is a favorite hobby of mine, and I can — and do — read mainly whatever I choose. I usually read reviews and try to choose books I truly think I will enjoy, because I almost never dnf (did not finish) a book. It hurts my sensibilities to think that I might put one or two hours into a book just to stop reading it and never find out what happens, which might only take another couple hours. (My husband, on the other hand, argues that I shouldn’t bother wasting hours of my life finishing a book I don’t like when I’m supposed to be reading for fun.)

I have finished a lot of clunkers in my life — books I really and truly hated at the time and even still — and the four or five hours it took to read them is time I will be begging for as I lay dying. That seems as good a place as any to begin.

1.As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

I read this novel because I was in a phase where I wanted to work my way through “the classics” that I wasn’t assigned to read in school. I remember thinking, “I really liked ‘A Rose for Emily.’ It’s time I read more Faulkner.” Well, that’s the last I read from Faulkner because, as it turns out, he sucks. The plot goes a little like this: a mom/wife dies so the family has to travel with her casket to bury her somewhere in the deep south, but they are terrible at it. It’s all sort of hazy in my memory, but I think there was a flood scene where they almost lose the coffin. Mom starts to smell as they travel (of course). And I know Dad steals money from his kids to get dentures so he can remarry as soon as his dead wife is in the ground. I just…can’t. I’m sure my college professors would have found some way to make this more memorable, enjoyable, or poignant, but I read it alone and had to bribe myself to finish it by setting intervals on my timer with snack rewards in between. I kept thinking, “This much bad stuff really wouldn’t happen to one family in such a short time,” yet the book just kept going…on…and on…until I thought I would still be reading it when I was riding in my casket in the wagon driven by my untrustworthy husband and delinquent kids.

2.Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

I can seriously not roll my eyes hard enough to portray my dissatisfaction with this piece of trash. Here’s the plot, in a nutshell: Rich man of her dreams marries her and turns into an emotionally abusive psychopath who wants to keep her locked up in a room in the basement. It starts on their honeymoon, I think, when he keeps her trapped in a room in, like, Singapore, or somewhere — he’s rich so I guess the hotel staff got good tips for helping him? She wants to leave him, but he keeps her passport. He says he’s going to kill her disabled sister when they get back to England so she devises a plan (with an alarmingly low chance of success in real life) to kill him first. I hated this book so much, mainly because all of the events seemed contrived and unrealistic. There was little explanation for husband’s behavior. The ending was cringe-worthy. The characters were flat and their actions were predictable. Skip it.

Finally, my memory is telling me this book is written in first-person present perspective, which is my least favorite narrative style.

3.The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

What is this book even about?! Holden Caulfield is a whiny, arrogant jerk who mistreats people and thinks that anyone who doesn’t do or say exactly what he wants is a “phony.” While perhaps a realistic look at the world through the eyes of a mentally ill teenage boy in the 1940’s, I, as a thirty-something woman found the protagonist unbearably irritating and the story uninteresting. Shockingly, this book still sells a million copies a year worldwide (according to Wikipedia), so somebody’s reading it. I’m guessing that it’s college kids forced to buy it for their American Literature course. Trigger warning: this book contains some language and at least one scene that is considered homophobic.

It is narrated mainly in first-person past tense, where Holden tells us what happened leading up to his current time. This is less annoying than first-person present, but still not my favorite.

4.The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison

I dislike books for a variety of reasons, but this is an especially bitter case for me. I heard so many great things about this book — excellent reviews, pumped up recommendations from Booktubers — that I unintentionally let my psyche build it up to be “the awesome and terrifying American sadist novel of our time.” In all honesty, that was my bad — a rookie mistake. I should have known better, especially after seeing that Hutchison had never written an adult book before. The story seemed right up my alley — a serial killer captures, tattoos, and keeps teenagers in cages and poses them like butterflies mounted for display when he kills them. I was even on board with the villain recruiting his son to help tend the menagerie, or whatever. What I couldn’t get past was the stilted, forced, unrealistic dialogue: truly, some of the worst I’ve ever read. Each time the main character answered a police officer’s question, she was essentially performing a rehearsed dramatic monologue to a group of speech judges. Rather than an authentic portrayal of a police interview in which a victim is explaining the torment her abductor put her through, Hutchison writes it like a soap opera with our protagonist devising cliffhangers and puzzles and witty wordplay and cryptic foreshadowing, offhand, every time she talks. It’s beyond annoying. I would give this book zero stars if I could.

Is this another first-person perspective book? Is the Pope Catholic?

5.The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (and all other dying-children fiction)

As much as I respect John Green for his history videos, I could not fathom reading another book he has written if The Fault in Our Stars is his most popular. Part of the problem with this novel is the “cleverness” of the characters; it reads like someone spent a lot of time thinking up witty responses. The other part is the concept of this and other novels like it (My Sister’s Keeper, Thirteen Reasons Why, etc.) — fictionalizing children dying or being maimed by disease or losing their loved ones while making other issues the real focus of the book is in bad taste and gratuitous. Even if the story was interesting (it wasn’t), I would still feel the subject matter is nothing more than manipulative shock-value-based drama. To be clear, I am not arguing that writing about sick children is immoral. There are many actual children battling illness who could be interviewed and their story could be told in a powerful and memorable biography. Writing about fake kids who are facing diseases people actually have, while focusing on an improbable (and also boring and age inappropriate) love story trivializes a serious and terrifying subject.

Imagine this novel without childhood cancer. Imagine the characters meet at a church potluck and get together and decide to go to a book signing by an author they love, yet he rejects their questions. Then imagine Gus dies in a car accident instead of slowly withering from cancer. Would the story really be different? I mean, the characters would have to be well-rounded instead of flat (as they are in the book) — and otherwise the storyline wouldn’t change much. That’s how we can tell the cancer portion really is unnecessary to the story Green wanted to tell.

Furthermore, there is a risk of glamorizing dying that I fear negatively affects some of the most vulnerable: young teenagers struggling with finding ways to ‘matter’ or make an impact.

Do I feel this way about every single book where a kid is killed? No, because the subject matter is handled differently: as an important plot device integral to moving the story forward rather than an “excuse” for actions which set up “the rest of the story.” Books I’ve read that handle it best include Bridge to Terebithia, The Lovely Bones, and If I Stay.

Another flaw: it’s written in first-person present perspective, because of course it is.

6.Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Good heavens, listening to this on an audio book was literally torture. I would not be at all surprised if it was piped into the cells at Guantanamo on a loop. The “I’m so clever” first person present tense/keeping a fake diary to play the long game/husband not knowing how to act like a normal human thus creating added suspicion — nope, I can’t. I just cannot.

Side note: this book utilizes first-person past and present narration — the bane of my existence.

7.The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (and all other Holocaust fiction)

The issue I have with this book is the same as the “dying kids” trope: there are actual survivors of the Holocaust to write about in a poignant way, so why are authors making up fake people to cover a sensitive topic fantastically? Is death as narrator (who literally gives away crucial plot points and ruins any possible foreshadowing or surprise) that inspiring or original? Or could we just write a narrative biography with no fantasy but make it interesting? It would probably take too much effort — why bother to research when authors can just make up stuff they don’t know or use deus ex machina to solve otherwise unsolvable problems, such as how to make a main character survive a neighborhood-leveling bomb. I am just so tired of lazy writing.

Oh, and is there a bunch of first-person and present tense writing in here? Is the Queen British?

Happy reading, friends.

Peace and love.

Light Reading for an Impending Apocalypse

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I sit on my couch, cradling my aching head while trying — all at once — every known homeopathic remedy to fight my way through a sinus infection sans antibiotics, when my thoughts wander to a headline I recall scrolling past: Stephen King Insists the Coronavirus Is Not Like The Stand. 

First, let’s all take a moment to give thanks that Coronavirus is not the nonfiction counterpart of Captain Trips. Now, let’s pretend for a minute that it is. In that case, the people who are well-read will rule whatever is left of the world.

Follow me down this rabbit hole for a moment. Disease strikes. Mankind fights for its survival. With a decrease in available workers, plumbing, electricity, all modern technological advances (luxuries and ‘necessities’) eventually fail, including the internet. Doctors  will try desperately to heal the ailing with inadequate treatments. Farmers will have to shovel the land by hand. Politicians, repudiated for their weak understanding of science and poor preparation for global catastrophe, will be banished. Athletes will be relegated to the physical labor of repairing crumbling buildings and sidewalks (since, apparently, looters will destroy the towns and/or some natural disaster strikes everywhere civilization still exists), for their unmatched strength and nimble limbs will have been honed for just such a task. Who will be left to take control — to organize and plan, to seek answers to new, yet ancient, problems, to lead the populous into an era of peace and compassion, humility and togetherness? 

Nerds, it is us. Unite (even though we are mainly introverts who would come out this weekend but unfortunately we’ve already made plans…)! We’ve prepared for this exact scenario. We’ve read the books — like, all of them — every single one. We’ve studied the rhetorical devices, appreciated the wordplay, memorized the figurative language. We’ve stayed in the bathroom during breaks in hopes that our coworkers won’t try to talk to us. Now is the time we claim our power and use the knowledge of ages and the wisdom of the greats stored in our giant brains to recreate the remaining people into a happier, more loving, and gentler society, already properly envisioned in our overactive imaginations. 

As I consider the question of what to read to adequately prepare for the catastrophe the Doomsday Preppers believe is rapidly approaching, I think about the books I’ve read over my lifetime. If I was truly worried about an apocalypse, I think my final reading list would look a little something like this:

1.The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson

This is a series of ten adult fantasy books, and from the first time I read the books in college to the last series read-through when the final book was released, it has remained one of my all-time favorite stories. The premise is a very ill man finds himself, after an accident, waking up in an unfamiliar environment, which he suspects he is imagining. As it turns out, saving the Land becomes, for our protagonist, intrinsically linked to saving himself — what he believes is good, and worth fighting for, and worth making sacrifices to obtain — whether the Land is real or not. I can’t express how much joy I have derived from these books, nor relate to you how many tears I have shed over this series.

“There’s only one way to hurt a man who’s lost everything. Give him back something broken.”

2.The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien 

In a similar vein to the Thomas Covenant series, I have read and reread these books numerous times. The overarching theme is that even in the darkest, saddest, worst, most fearful times, there is still hope and love and friendship and happiness to be found. We observe the courage and perseverance of our main characters even in what appears to be certain defeat (and, for some of them, unfortunately is). These stories can show us what dedication and loyalty truly are. They demonstrate how to overcome overwhelming odds, crushing temptation, and painful despair. They inspire me to be more optimistic and to recognize that, while I may not “win them all” I may “lose” with pride, and cling to my belief that the good in the world will defeat the bad.

“Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

3.Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

This lighthearted classic tale is purported to be an allegory, both of drug use and of politics of the time. As a card-carrying conspiracy theorist, I can attest that the allegations are one-hundred percent accurate, but also very probably not real. Even if it is true that the Queen of Hearts represents the Queen of England during Victorian times, that knowledge wouldn’t lessen my appreciation for the work as a silly, amusing story entertaining for both children and adults. It is cautionary in nature: Alice finds herself recklessly tumbling into a world in which she gets pulled deeper and deeper due to her insatiable curiosity and sincere appreciation for free food. The strangers she meets are crazy, unpredictable, treacherous, but, also, occasionally helpful and well-meaning. Basically, it’s life in a college dorm.

“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”

4.The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

This is a memoir that spent over 440 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list, and with good reason. Jeannette describes her early life as one with many obstacles she worked to overcome: being homeless, living in poverty, and being neglected and abused. Her writing style is elegant and compelling. Her story is heartbreaking and uplifting. She begins by describing how she set herself on fire. Her tragic early life has propelled her into a successful, strong, college-educated career woman. I haven’t often read a book as moving and inspiring, yet relatable, which simultaneously made me feel guilty about the life I’ve enjoyed. It’s a rare gem.

“Pick out your favorite star,” Dad said.
“I like that one!” I said.
Dad grinned. “That’s Venus,” he said. He explained to me that planets glowed because reflected light was constant and stars twinkled because their light pulsed.
“I like it anyway,” I said.
“What the hell,” Dad said. “It’s Christmas. You can have a planet if you want.”
And he gave me Venus.

5.The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

A unicorn is led to believe she is the last in existence, and thus goes to search out what has happened to all the others. It is a tale of having courage, and forging unlikely friendships, and finding or recognizing purpose and meaning in life, and accepting our innate nature, and defying the greed of our leaders for the betterment of the public. It is also about a unicorn, so….

“What use is wizardry if it cannot save a unicorn?” He gripped the magician’s shoulder hard, to keep from falling.
Schmendrick did not turn his head. With a touch of sad mockery in his voice, he said, “That’s what heroes are for.”

6. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

In the unlikely event of a civilization-altering calamity, it might be worth reading a story set in the midst of the “Roaring 20’s,” when people cared for little else but living in the moment and partying wildly on bootlegged hooch, recklessly squandering wealth in the expectation that their prosperity would continue unchecked indefinitely, in the time just before the stock market crash and Great Depression led many of these same players to suicide. Each time I read this book, I discover more to love. The tale of Gatsby and Daisy is timeless, and tragic, and unforgettable.

“I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him.”

7.The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

I have lost count of the number of times I have read this novel but the story has remained near the top of my favorite books list (which doesn’t actually exist, but if it did I would never forgive myself if I laminated it because I’m too indecisive to make that type of commitment). I have taught it to my students seven years in a row and every time it was genuinely enjoyed by a majority of the class, a feat so rare it only happens as often as a double rainbow after a Blood Rain in Kottayam. Albom’s powerful imagery, simple prose, poignant lessons, and memorable characters combine to create a novel which was on the New York Times Best Seller list for almost two years. As a bonus, this book is short and a fast read — perfect for a snowy afternoon snuggled on the couch with some hot chocolate.

“All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.”

8. The Stand by Stephen King.

Because, well, it can’t hurt to prepare.

 

“Whatever lay ahead, he was glad to be alive.”

 

Peace and love.

Fall Reading List 2019

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Fall is probably my favorite season. As a teacher, I can finally settle back into a routine and have structure in my life. The weather is cold enough for all the mosquitoes and ticks to die but not usually cold enough to snow (unfortunately, this morning I woke up to a white lawn). The leaves change to some of my favorite colors: orange, yellow, brown. There are holidays to look forward to and time spent snuggling on the couch watching scary movies (for the Fall Fornelli Frightfest). Most excitingly, there is something about a calm, quiet morning before everyone else wakes up spent drinking coffee and reading something (hopefully) terrifying that really drives me. Plus, when I read in bed at night and truly scare myself, it’s a great excuse for the hubby to wrap his arms around me while I curl up under the covers. Here are the eight books I hope can live up to that expectation.

Last days.jpgLast Days by Adam Nevill: I watch a lot of BookTube (YouTube channels where they discuss books) and about four years ago this book was all over the place and getting glowing reviews. I am currently about one hundred pages into this large book (only four hundred and thirty-four to go) and here is what I know: There was a cult in the sixties that involved themselves with some evil stuff; in present day people are making a documentary about it. Oh, and on the cover of the book The Guardian wrote that Nevill is “Britain’s answer to Stephen King.” (I am going to stop The Guardian right there and exclaim, heartily, that, judging solely on his writing in this book, he is not, in fact, the next Stephen King.)

Image result for dreamcatcher stephen king Dreamcatcher by Stephen King: One of my life goals is to read every novel Stephen King has written. I currently have twenty-one left, including this. I believe it is about an alien invasion — I may have seen previews for the movie at some point. It’s another long novel of about seven hundred pages, which sounds like a perfect way to spend a weekend.

Image result for stock photo the silence of the lambs book The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris: I know, I know — this is part of a series and I haven’t read the first one yet. Normally I would never skip to the second book of a series, but given that I have seen this movie probably ten times I feel like nothing will “get spoiled” for me that wasn’t already. I am actually really excited to read this one but I’m worried that the movie characters will constantly be running in my head while I do (a major downfall of watching the film first).

The Lords of Salem The Lords of Salem by Rob Zombie: I’m not even gonna try to front — I bought this book for the sole purpose of reading at Halloween time, and because it was written by Rob Zombie (whom I saw in concert last month and it was exactly what you would expect). It’s about witches — perfect for October — and I think it actually came after the movie. I’d just really like to get this one off the shelf soon. It’s fairly short so hopefully I can knock it out in just a few hours.

Image result for stock photo the road novel The Road by Cormac McCarthy: Could this finally be the year I check this off my TBR? I know very little about this novel, other than that there is a movie based on it and it is set in a post-apocalyptic time, which seems like it should be right up my alley.

Image result for stock photo the deep nick cutter The Deep by Nick Cutter: I fell into the hype. Plagues. Clive Barker calling it “Utterly terrifying.” An underwater lab. A tagline reading “Save your last breath to scream.” I just really hope I’m not let down.Image result for stock photo joe hill 21st century ghosts 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill: This is Stephen King’s son, who is probably some sort of clone. Like, they look identical to each other and they are both horror writers of bestselling novels. I’m wondering if they aren’t just the same person. Has anyone ever seen them in a room together? So, yeah, I had to give this one a chance. There’s just something about a good ghost story, you know?

Image result for ibitsu stock photo Ibitsu by Haruto Ryo: I genuinely and truly have no idea what this graphic novel (Manga?) is about. I heard about it from one of my favorite BookTubers and immediately ordered it. She mentioned that it’s a Japanese urban legend and once I saw the cover I was completely infatuated. Look at it. Have you seen anything so creepy? It even has a parental advisory for explicit content. I flipped through the pages and they are beautifully drawn. I’m so excited to read this.

 

What are you planning to read for this fall season? Did any of these make your list?

If you have any suggestions for books that scared you — genuinely got your heart racing — please let me know. I’m in the mood for a good scare, and I love recommendations to add to my list.

Peace and love.

Fall Reading List

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I am a huge lover of all things fall: corn mazes, changing leaves, apple cider, sweaters, squash soup, plaid, vampy lips, sweatpants, scarves — to put it in the lingo the kids use these days, I’m “basic.” The girl sipping the venti Starbucks pumpkin spice latte in Barnes and Noble while wearing leggings and furry boots who almost ran you over to get to the horror section first? That was me, and I’m not even sorry.  But I will try to make it up to you with a new series I am so excited to bring you: books that are on my to-be-read (tbr) list. I’ve handpicked some novels I’m really interested in and plan on reading this fall (October and November)! I’ve included what I think are accurate representations of their genres, based on some research and also common sense, and also a limited description of what I know about each one.

Just to give a little more information, I read, on average, a little over a book a week, and have read 43 books this year so far (it’s October 2). I typically am reading three to four books at a time, so if I get tired of one I just switch to another. I could probably complete books faster if I just stuck to one at a time, but I don’t. So it goes.

 

Dystopia: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Related imageIf you are looking for a terrifying account of what the future could bring, this is the selection for you. I am currently halfway through this novel, and I just can’t stop myself from reading it (and rereading exceptionally well-written chapters). In an America that has been rebuilt after a civil war, women are no longer seen as equal to men. That’s all I will tell you, besides that it is truly worrying.

 

 

 

Fantasy/Horror: Insomnia by Stephen King

Image result for stock photo insomnia kingbookOn my quest to read each of Stephen King’s novels, I find that this is one I have left. It occurs in Derry, a town he has used as a setting in other books, and the topic is relatable to me: there are nights I only get two or three hours of sleep due to insomnia. I have learned that in this novel are fights over abortion and women being abused by their husbands. The last hint I have is that someone is being driven crazy, I believe. It doesn’t sound like it will be one of my favorites, but it does sound like an interesting book.

 

 

Horror: The Troop by Nick Cutter

Image result for stock photo the deep nick cutter bookThis guy was recommended to me by Stephen King. Ok, so that sounds a lot cooler than I really am. I saw on the cover of the novel that King said this book made him afraid, and I jumped at the chance to read it, too. I don’t know much about it — in fact, I know literally nothing else, other than it’s about some scouts, I think. But if it’s good enough to scare my favorite horror writer, it’s good enough for me!

 

 

 

YA: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Image result for stock photo the graveyard bookI’m about 15 pages into this short novel, and I think it’s clever, original, and just a little bit creepy as well. At this point, I would not hesitate to recommend it to my middle and high schoolers who are interested in a good scary story at this time of year. It starts with a family being killed (but it doesn’t go into detail or anything like that) except for the toddler, who manages to escape into a graveyard by his home. The ghosts of the cemetary take him under their wing and protect him from the murderer. That’s as far as I have gotten.

 

 

Satire/Thriller: Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Image result for stock photo fight club bookI watched parts of this movie when I was in college (or maybe high school? could I be that old?), so I know that the first rule of fight club is that there is no fight club, or whatever. I also know the twist ending of the movie. I’m hoping that, despite spoiling it for myself, my memory is bad enough that I will still be able to enjoy reading the novel. If not, I’m sure I’ve read things that are worse and longer — this book clocks in at a light 218 pages.

 

 

Horror/Psychological Thriller: Rage by Stephen King

Image result for stock photo rage stephen king

As a teacher, nothing is more horrifying than an attack on a school. It is, unfortunately, a reality our country faces far too frequently. Potentially, such a tragedy could occur literally anywhere and have devastating results on the community impacted. I would never wish such evil on anyone. Stephen King himself is so disturbed that some school shootings were later linked to his novel that he does not want it to be published any longer. How appropriate for a reading list for scary book/Halloween season.

 

 

Psychological Thriller: The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison

Image result for stock photo the butterfly gardenI purposely have avoided learning too much about what happens in this novel because I want to have suspense and fear come organically. I understand the basic premise: a sadist kidnaps and tortures people. However, whenever I am reading or watching reviews and this novel comes up, I skip it. I am so excited for this book, and truly think it will be one that keeps me up at night. I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback about it, so fingers are crossed it’s a good, fast, scary, tormenting, can’t-get-it-out-of-your-head read!

 

 

True Crime: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Image result for stock photo in cold blood

This nonfiction selection has been on my “read it soon” list for literally years — probably close to a decade. I’ve decided this is the year I can finally read it and move on with my life. Writing about an actual murder from multiple perspectives was unique for the time Capote was writing. As true crime is one of my favorite genres, I’m incredibly excited to read the one that started it all (according to Wikipedia).

 

 

I would love to know what you are planning to read this season! Peace and love.

 

 

Nonfiction November Reading Challenge

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Since nonfiction is one of my favorite reading genres, I have decided to participate in a reading challenge I discovered on YouTube for the month of November. The challenge has become very popular among the YouTube community as well as among Goodreads members. I have picked my four novels for the month based on the challenge categories of the creators, Gemma (whose YouTube channel is Non Fic Books) and Olive (who is known on YouTube as abookolive). They are using #NonfictionNovember2016 as the hashtag to find the tbr of everyone who is participating.

 

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The categories of the challenges, along with my selections for each, are as follows.

1.New: A book on a subject about which you know very little or one that is new to your collection or interest level. For this choice I picked The War That Killed Achilles: The True Story of Homer’s Iliad and the Trojan War by Caroline Alexander. I teach part of Homer’s Iliad to my seniors every year, and it has always been one of my favorites, so when I found this recently I bought it immediately and without hesitation. It is brand new to my collection, though it was published in 2009, and finding out more about the actual history surrounding the Trojan War is an exciting prospect for me.

2.Fascinating: A book on a subject in which you are highly interested — one you can’t wait to read on a topic that you love. For this category, I have chosen, and already started reading, The Boston Strangler by Gerold Frank. I am a huge fan of true crime novels, and this is an in-depth look at the evidence and police action during the investigation of a serial killer who, until only recently, had completely mystified the Boston police department since the middle of the last century.

3.Controversial: A book on a topic about which people might have opposing views. For this category, I have chosen A First-Rate MadnessUncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness by Nassir Ghaemi. I have been incredibly excited to read this book since I purchased it a few years ago, but somehow it just kept getting shoved to the back of my tbr time after time. I knew that adding it to this reading challenge would finally push me to get around to this controversial little number, which discusses how some of our most famous and infamous world leaders have all had similar qualities, personality traits, and characteristics verging, unfortunately, on the brink of insanity. Considering the premise, I think this novel would start a number of excellent debates among historians as well as mental health experts.

4.Important: A book you think an educated person should read, which helps people understand the world or others around them. For this choice I selected History’s Worst Crimes and the People Who Investigated Them by Bill Price. This is one in a collection of similar books by the same author, and, as previously noted, I am a true crime fan, so this one in particular is right up my alley. I thought that if I check this off the list, it might encourage me to read the others like it in our personal library. It also seems like it will be a very quick read. It fits the category because it shows that, unfortunately, terrible, baffling crimes occur during all times and all over the world; it is a reality we must face if we hope to prevent them in the future.

Join me in this challenge! I would love to hear your thoughts on the books you choose.

Peace and love.

Fall Reading List: Stephen King

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Picture this: it’s a dark, chilly September evening, much like tonight. You are curled up on the couch in your comfy sweats and favorite long-sleeved tee, wrapped in a soft, cozy afghan. A cat is napping lazily beside you. An over-sized mug of tea sits steaming gently on the coffee table in front of you. The scent from a “twilight woods” candle wafts subtly about as the light from the flame flickers on the walls. The wind blows noisily outside, and a branch taps gently at your window.

What is missing from the perfect evening described above? The perfect book, which will make your heart race, your pupils dilate, the hair stand up at the back of your neck. Enter Stephen King.

I’ve been a fan of The Master of Horror since I was a little girl. And by “fan,” I mean hardcore, dedicated, the-only-thing-that-makes-my-life-complete-is-owning-every-King-novel-in-hardcover, nonviolent stalker. And by “little girl,” I mean from approximately seven, when I watched, for the first time, a movie based on a King book. It was certainly a mistake for my parents to allow a child to see an R-rated horror film, admittedly, yet one which began a lifelong obsession with “catching the fear” that few authors or even movie directors are able to provide.

Thus, from one professional fear-searcher to another, I bring you my choices for the top scariest Stephen King books. I’ve ordered these novels from “scary enough to make you jump” down to “sleeping in Mom’s bed tonight.”

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12. Pet Sematary: A magical place exists where you are able to bury your loved ones and they return to you. In what condition would you be willing to accept them when they come home? How high is the price you would pay for this ability? Would you sacrifice your reputation, your friends, your sanity? While there is a movie for this popular novel, I read the book in only a few days in college, because I couldn’t put it down. It was one of the first King novels I ever read, and  I remember being simultaneously sad and scared for the majority of the book.

11. Thinner: It seems like a dream come true when a morbidly obese man is told by an aging traveler that he will start to lose weight and it actually happens. (If only, am I right?) However, as is typical of curses placed on those who murder a gypsy’s wife and cover it up without punishment, life soon becomes quite unbearable and the rapidly shrinking man finds himself making difficult and dangerous choices in order to reverse his fate. I’ve read this book four times and have loved it each and every one.

10. Gerald’s Game: This novel could quite convincingly be placed under another author’s name in the bookstore, as it is drastically different from King’s typical style. It is fairly short and more verging on terrifying realism than supernatural terror. I read this in a weekend in college and am still deeply disturbed by it. An abusive husband dies after handcuffing his wife to a bed in a secluded cabin. Her subsequent time dealing with the aftermath of her situation is truly chilling. Furthermore, I loved catching the connections this novel has to others in the King universe.

9. The Tommyknockers: This is the King novel I read most recently, and also one which plays to my inner conspiracy-theorist. Imagine, if you will, your town is suddenly and irrevocably changed by an invasion we are all completely incapable of fighting off. “Late last night and the night before, Tommyknockers, Tommyknockers, knocking at my door.”

8. Delores Claiborne: This monologue is, in effect, a confession by the title character of a murder she committed. While this stylistic choice is commonly reserved for poetry and short stories, it is an underused — though, in this case, highly effective — format for a novel. I found this realistic book to be an exceptionally quick read. It provides an incredibly satisfying tying up of loose ends in Claiborne’s life, as well as a very obvious (and intentional) link to several events described in Gerald’s Game.

7. Night Shift: So many of the short stories in this collection are genuinely disturbing. A few of my favorites are “Sometimes They Come Back,” “Quitters, Inc.,” and “Children of the Corn.” If a full-length King novel seems too much to commit to, try this one out and just read those three first — I promise you’ll want to devour the other stories in the book as fast as possible.

6. ‘Salem’s Lot: I was too scared to sleep in my room in the basement while reading this one summer during college. I remember vividly the anxiety I felt lying alone in the dark, and deciding instead to run up the stairs to sleep on the couch each night. My mom never laughed at this, but instead explained it was a novel by which she, too, had been frightened. The moral of this book is that strangers are dangerous — a valid life lesson, it seems.

5. Needful Things: Few books have left a mark on me the way this one did. I read this in a couple of days, despite its intimidating length. I still grapple with the deep issues raised by the reading. What am I willing to trade to get what I want? Who would I be willing to betray to fulfill my own dreams? Am I strong enough to avoid the temptations to which others would fall prey? Can we truly stand against evil?

4.The Stand: A devastating plague known as “Captain Trips” wipes out most of the world. Those remaining alive must rebuild society but are forced to choose which side to aid: Randall Flagg (a recurring character in King’s novels with a flair for both leadership and destruction) or Mother Abagail, who brought survivors together to begin building “the Free Zone.” This novel is most horrifying in the contemplation of a preventable mistake leading to an unstoppable apocalypse.

3. Misery: A fanatical follower with an untreated mental illness and questionable past captures and cripples the writer of her favorite book series. This story line is literally the biggest hurdle I face when penning my own novel. I just know that some snowy day I’ll crash my car and find myself at the mercy of Kathy Bates.

2. The Shining: The ultimate psychological meets supernatural horror story, this novel has been at the top of my “I must reread this before I die” list since I finished it the first time. Despite its immense size, this book was so engrossing that I finished it over a weekend home from college and actually slept in my mom’s bed because I was so afraid. Allow me to reiterate. I was a grown adult woman in my early twenties who slept in my mom’s bed while Dad was forced to sleep on the living room couch. Apparently, even as a college student, I needed my parents’ protection from a fictional character. Let that sink in.

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1.It: Of course the novel about a supernatural evil entity who takes the form of a murderous clown tops my list. This is the movie I was, for some inexplicable reason, allowed to watch before I’d even turned double-digits. As though that wasn’t bad enough, I had several unfortunate run-ins with a real-life clown that were highly unpleasant. While I may seem a bit biased, this book is hyped for a reason. It really is as good as people make it out to be. This novel is one of King’s longest, yet best written. I owe my phobia of circus freaks as well as my loathing of balloon popping to this story; you owe it to yourself to take the time to read it. Soon. Just make sure your spouse is cool with sleeping with the lights on for a while.

Peace and love.

Book Review: The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

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***Warning: Spoilers Ahead!***

Check out my review of the first two books, The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers.

Summary: This is the last book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It describes the success of Frodo and Sam in making it to the mountain; however, once they arrive, Frodo finds himself unable to cast the ring into the fire. Gollum wrestles for control and bites off Frodo’s finger, obtaining his “precious” moments before slipping into the lava. This effectively ends the seemingly hopeless war that Gandalf, Aragorn, and many others had been waging against Sauron. Thus, Aragorn reclaims the role of king and marries Arwen. They begin setting things right in the land, and the Fellowship officially ends. The Hobbits travel most of the way back to the Shire with Gandalf, who leaves them to their task of rebuilding after Saruman’s minions destroyed it. Gandalf notes that the Hobbits are quite capable of being heroes without him, and his strength is fading because his time in Middle Earth is ending. Eventually, Gandalf, Frodo, Bilbo, and the Elves travel over the sea. They are joined by Legolas, Gimli, and Sam, who bore the ring briefly for Frodo during their time in Mordor. However, the three remaining Hobbits lived long lives after the departure of Frodo and Bilbo, proving that obstacles in life that don’t defeat us truly do make us stronger.

Peace and love.

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Book Review: The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

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***Warning: Spoilers Ahead!***

Check out my review of the first book, The Fellowship of the Ring

SUMMARY: In a continuation of the journey begun in the first book, this chronicles the travels of Frodo and Sam, now led by Gollum (the previous owner of the ring and one most untrustworthy). It also explains the fall of Orthanc, the tower of Saruman, a wizard overcome by evil and desire. His downfall is accomplished by the Ents, a race of tree-guards, who keep Merry and Pippin safe until the arrival of their friends. They are reunited with Gandalf, who has become “white,” a symbolic transformation occurring as a result of his return from death. Gandalf helps Theoden, king of Rohan, Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas defeat Saruman’s attacking army at Helm’s Deep. Frodo and Sam make it to Mordor, only to have Frodo stunned by a giant spider (as per Gollum’s plan) and carried off by Orcs. This leaves Sam to wonder how he may save his master and friend.

REFLECTION: The towers mentioned in the title may have multiple meanings. First, and most obviously, may be that they are symbols for good and evil. Second, they may represent Cirith Ungol (Mordor and home of Sauron) and Orthanc (Isengard and home of Saruman). This is likely, as men are being squeezed on both sides by two forces of evil. Finally, they may be Cirith Ungol and Minas Tirith (in Gondor), both having stood since the “ancient battle.”

Check out my review of the third book, The Return of the King.

Peace and love.

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The “Unpleasant Job” of Being Atticus Finch

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In honor of Harper Lee (1926-2016).

rfornelli

mockingbirdIn the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Miss Maudie perfectly describes the nature of her life-long friend, Atticus, who is a lawyer. Maudie tells his children, “I simply wanted to tell you that there are some men in this world who were born to do our unpleasant jobs for us. Your father’s one of them.”

The nature of his “unpleasant job” in the novel is simple: Atticus defends a black man against the blatantly, undeniably false charges of a white woman in the south in the 1930s. Atticus is ridiculed and threatened by the townspeople, who don’t understand why he is trying so hard to save someone they are convinced is guilty.

Atticus perseveres through the destruction of his reputation. He ignores the whispered criticisms and shrugs off the mocking insults. His belief in doing what is right enables him to wade through the venomous hate, so that he can teach his…

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Book Review: The Dark Half.

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Title: The Dark Half
Author: Stephen King
**************************Spoilers Ahead*********************************
Summary: This novel describes a classic case of good versus evil, with the twist that both are sides of the same man, literally and figuratively. Thad Beaumont, a successful writer, struggles against George Stark, the ghost of his twin and the personification of his pen name. Thad attempts to kill his pseudonym by writing an article for People in which he reveals the truth. Stark, enraged, commits a killing spree and murders all involved with the article. Stark then kidnaps Thad’s family in order to force Thad to write another novel, so that Stark may take over Thad’s life. Thad calls upon sparrows — psychopomps of the living dead — to rid himself of Stark — his pseudonym, his double life, his “dark half.”
Reflection: This was my fourth — and only successful — attempt to read this book all the way through. It took forcing myself to watch the movie and then trudge through the agonizingly slow first three chapters to get to the point where I could enjoy the story.
Fun fact: Alan Pangborn is the sheriff of Castle Rock in this and in the novel Needful Things.