Showing posts with label halloween. Show all posts
Showing posts with label halloween. Show all posts

Sunday, November 2, 2014

BOO! October 2014 in Review

This recap will be short and sweet, because life is just crazy up in here lately.  First, sadly, my aunt passed away on the 31st after a long battle with cancer.  This is obviously very upsetting for our family, and we are in the midst of figuring out all the arrangements, so I may be MIA a bit around here (as I'm sure you understand).

Also crazy for good reasons though.  Of course, Halloween came and went, which was much fun for our kiddos, especially Small Fry.  It's fun to see how trick or treating has progressed with him over the years.  At age 3, he is really starting to get into it, and he had a blast going door to door that night.  I had a blast too, especially when he got to the house giving out full size Snickers bars.  Because that's probably a little too much sugar for a three year old, right?  So Mommy and Daddy might just have to confiscate that...
The firefighter puts out the fires that the dragon starts, of course.
Anyway, let's talk reading!

In October I read 5 books:
Larger Than Life by Jodi Picoult
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Man V. Nature by Diane Cook
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

In addition, we did a little Six Degrees of Separation with 1984, and I gave two thumbs way up to the Gone Girl movie.

November is now upon us, and I am SUPER PUMPED for Nonfiction November!  Post about that coming tomorrow.  Definitely going to get my nonfic groove on this month.

How was your October, friends?  Any fun Halloween costumes to share?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Book Review: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson


Title: The Haunting of Hill House
Author: Shirley Jackson
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: October 16, 1959
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads

First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a "haunting"; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.


My Review:

My MOST favorite thing about October reading is the excuse to read spooky, creepy novels.  Each year, I try to make time during this month for at least one Halloween-ish read that's been on my TBR list for a long time.  This year, I'm reading rather slowly this month, so I knew I had to choose just one.  The Haunting of Hill House got the distinction because it's a bit of a supernatural classic, and I've heard nothing but good reviews from my favorite reader friends.  (Plus, I was under the (mistaken) impression that it was the inspiration for the 1959 Vincent Price movie, House on Haunted Hill.  Not the case, but the movie is good anyway--do watch!)

Overall, this book fell into the "good not great" category for me.  I'll admit up front that this could be an issue of spoilers.  The edition that I read had an introduction by Stephen King at the beginning, and since I will read literally anything that that man writes, of course I jumped into it first.  But wouldn't you know...it was full of spoilers.  CHOCK FULL.  Why in the world would you put an introduction on a novel that is full of giveaways about the ending?  Ugh.  As soon as I realized that I was getting too much info, I stopped reading the introduction, but the damage was done.  Therefore, I went into the novel already knowing what would happen to the protagonist (Eleanor), and that made the conclusion lose its edge for me.

Despite the spoilers, I still felt a little underwhelmed by my Haunting of Hill House experience.  The events were spooky, but not necessarily scary.  I often had more fun figuring out the dynamics between the characters (especially Eleanor and Theodora) than I did watching Hill House's ghosts play their nocturnal games.  I guess, after so many reviews telling me that this wasn't a book to read alone in the dark, I was expecting more thrills and chills.

I don't mean to pan the book so much though, honestly.  It was still fun to read, and definitely great for October--grab your fleece blanket and a cup of tea, and this is perfect for a fall afternoon.  Even if it's not particularly scary, it is a "literary" thriller, so it's interesting to see how the characters play off of each other, and how Eleanor in particular manages to change throughout the book.

The Haunting of Hill House was middle-of-the-road for me, but I still think it's worth a read...especially if you don't get the ending ruined for you beforehand, like I did!

Have you ever read the introduction of a book, only to find that it's got spoilers from the novel in it?  This has happened to me before Hill House as well.  What is up with that??

Monday, September 29, 2014

Happy Monday! What are YOU reading?

Hope everyone had a great weekend!  What are you reading today?
Our weekend was busy with all sorts of good stuff.  On Saturday, I got a tattoo (my third) of an infinity symbol with my boys' names woven into it.  I LOVE IT.  I wish I could show it to you, but as you know, they go by Small Fry and Tater Tot on the blog, and that is not what the tattoo says (although that would have been pretty fantastic).  So for privacy's sake, you'll just have to imagine it.  But this is the idea photo that I provided to the artist, if you want the gist:

It went on the inner part of my upper arm (bicep area) and it didn't hurt all that much.  Because after childbirth, nothing else hurts all that much.  Anyway, these kids better love me forever, because they are totally stuck to me now!

Sunday we took Small Fry and Tater Tot to one of the local farms that were doing a fall festival.  It was awesome!  Pumpkin patch, train rides, giant slides, playground, sandbox, petting zoo, corn maze, etc.  The weather was gorgeous and we had a great time.  (An even better time when we got home and both kiddos passed out for a nap--woo!!!)

As for what I'm reading these days:

Larger Than Life by Jodi Picoult

From Jodi Picoult, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Storyteller and My Sister’s Keeper, comes a gripping and beautifully written novella, now available exclusively as an eBook. Set in the wilds of Africa, Larger Than Life introduces Alice, the unforgettable character at the center of Picoult’s anticipated new novel, Leaving Time
 
A researcher studying memory in elephants, Alice is fascinated by the bonds between mother and calf—the mother’s powerful protective instincts and her newborn’s unwavering loyalty. Living on a game reserve in Botswana, Alice is able to view the animals in their natural habitat—while following an important rule: She must only observe and never interfere. Then she finds an orphaned young elephant in the bush and cannot bear to leave the helpless baby behind. Thinking back on her own childhood, and on her shifting relationship with her mother, Alice risks her career to care for the calf. Yet what she comes to understand is the depth of a parent’s love. (From Goodreads)

Yes, it's that time of year again!  Jodi Picoult's latest release is on the horizon.  (If you are unsure about my level of excitement for this, please educate yourself here.)  Leaving Time will be available October 14, but readers are getting a special treat beforehand--this novella that delves into the past of one of Leaving Time's central characters.  It's only in eBook format, but was offered for free for a short time (score!).

The novella is interesting so far--not full of the twists and turns that you expect from a Picoult book, as it's more of a character study to get your curiosity going for the novel that is to come.  But I love getting this early glimpse at one of the new book's characters, and it's definitely getting me psyched for release day.  Picoult fans should check this out--it's a quick read and a fun way to gear up for her latest work.

What will I read next?
Several options ahead for me!  I have The Hunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson from the library...getting ready for spooky Halloween-ish reads.  I'm also considering a Stephen King novel (as I always do this time of year)...perhaps Bag of Bones.  And I've also got my new pick from the TBR book baggie--Moby Dick by Herman Melville.  EEK!  I have a feeling that one might wait for a while.

What's in your reading plans this week, friends?  Any fun Halloween reads coming up?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!: Fave Scary Reads

Happy Halloween, readers!  I have had a great time delving into some spooky and thrilling reads this month, in honor of this ever-so-eerie day.

Since college, I haven't focused much on the horror genre (or at least not more than any other genre).  But when I was in middle and high school, that was almost the only thing I read.  Looking back on it, I'm kind of amazed that my middle school Reading and Language Arts teachers never marched me to the school counselor's office.  All I read was Fear Street, and all the stories I wrote involved murder, suicide, and death in general.  'Twas a different era, I suppose.  Thanks for trusting that I wasn't a psycho, teachers!

Nowadays, I still love to pepper my reading with scary books.  Books give me enough of a scare-factor that I feel sufficiently creeped out, but they don't overload me with horrifying special effects and gore the way the movies do.  The beauty of reading is that you can visualize and focus on the plot elements at your own pace, in your own head.  They can still freak me the eff out, but it's easier to walk away if I need a breather.  This is what keeps scary books on my TBR list.

Thus, in honor of the awesomeness that is Halloween, I'm highlighting some of my all-time favorite scary reads, from my dark days as a horror-writing youngster to now.

The Scary Stories books by Alvin Schwartz

I had all three of these books in elementary school, and they are still scaring the pants off me to this day.  The stories themselves are straight-up frightening, but paired with the pictures?  They're like the visual equivalent of The Ring.  GAHHH!  In hindsight, I can't believe these were marketed to fourth graders.  Do kids still read these, or have they been banned because the children of the 80's showed too much mental damage?

Christopher Pike teen novels

When I hit middle school, Christopher Pike and RL Stine were my homeboys.  I would read any Fear Street you threw at me.  But in terms of the scare factor, Pike always won out.  Stine's books were always a little campy and predictable, but Christopher Pike went straight for the gritty, gory, sex- and drug-infested teenage horror story.  Again, probably a bit much for my 11-year-old self.  But these books still stick with me as awesome reads.  Chain Letter was one of my faves.

Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

I have no idea why I took this book out of the library in middle school.  Apparently I wandered into the adult section and ended up with this at random.  I read it three times, and every time I didn't sleep for days.  If you've seen the movie (with Julianne Moore), it's kind of cheesy.  But the book was no joke.  Now remember--I was in middle school.  It might not be so scary to me now.  But back then, the crazy Amazonian beast roaming the halls of the Natural History Museum was a nightmare.  I still think about it every time I visit the AMNH in New York.

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi

What's scarier than nonfiction horror?  This is the story of Charles Manson and the Manson murders, in full and disgusting detail.  I read this in high school (came strongly recommended by my MOM...and I wonder why I was drawn to horror novels).  If you like true crime, this is the ultimate.

Pet Sematary by Stephen King

As an adult, Stephen King is my horror master.  I've read a ton of his stuff, but Pet Sematary might be tops on the list for me in terms of fright.  A family moves into a new house, and discovers an ancient burial ground in the woods behind it.  It contains powers that are beyond the imagination--and of course, those powers are abused accordingly.  Burial ground + dead pets + little kids = totally twisted.

What were your scary favorites throughout the years?

Wondrous Words Wednesday (3)



Halloween Edition!  All these creepy words come from 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King.  Man, does that guy have a vocabulary, LET ME TELL YOU.

Wondrous Words Wednesday is hosted by Bermudaonion each week.  It's an opportunity to share new words you've encountered in your reading, or highlight words that you particularly enjoy.


Here are three of my favorites new-to-me words from 'Salem's Lot.  All definitions from Dictionary.com.


1. viscid.   "The shadows of coming night had already pooled into it, like something viscid and alive."

adjective
having a glutinous consistency; sticky; adhesive; viscous.

2. cerements.   "He wanted to see EVIL with its cerements of deception cast aside, with every feature of its visage clear."
noun
1a cerecloth used for wrapping the dead.
2.  any graveclothes.

3. malefic.  "A great hush had fallen over the woods; but it was a malefic hush."

adjective
productive of evil; malign; doing harm; baneful.

What are your new words this week?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Book Review: Coraline by Neil Gaiman


Title: Coraline
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: August 4, 2002
Source: received from Cass in the All Hallow's Read book swap!

Plot Summary from Goodreads:


Coraline's often wondered what's behind the locked door in the drawing room. It reveals only a brick wall when she finally opens it, but when she tries again later, a passageway mysteriously appears. Coraline is surprised to find a flat decorated exactly like her own, but strangely different. And when she finds her "other" parents in this alternate world, they are much more interesting despite their creepy black button eyes. When they make it clear, however, that they want to make her theirs forever, Coraline begins a nightmarish game to rescue her real parents and three children imprisoned in a mirror. With only a bored-through stone and an aloof cat to help, Coraline confronts this harrowing task of escaping these monstrous creatures.


My Review:

When I was filling out my preferences for the All Hallow's Read swap (courtesy of My Friend Amy's blog), I had a hard time summing up what type of book I preferred.  I love Stephen King, but I've read a ton of it.  Some crime thrillers are great for me, but others fall terribly flat.  I've read 1 Neil Gaiman novel, want to try more, but not sure what.

Well, turns out that lucky me was paired with Cass from Bonjour, Cass!, and I was pleasantly surprised to find a copy of Coraline in my mailbox.  New-to-me Gaiman, but a middle-grade novella--very different from my previously-read (and loved) Neverwhere.  Plus, I haven't seen the movie, so the plot was entirely unknown to me.  I was intrigued!

Coraline is a short read, but it instantly transported me back to fifth grade, when I adored Roald Dahl's Matilda (and probably re-read it 10 times that year alone).  If you've read both books, you might think that's an odd comparison, but I actually see many similarities.  Two young, brave heroines, using their fantastical worlds to their advantage to outsmart the wily adults that rival them.  No wonder my long-repressed fifth-grade-self was awakened!  I think Matilda and Coraline would get along quite well, in fact.  And have many stories to share.  (Plus, they're both Brits, so hometown advantage.)

However, the obvious difference between these two books is the scare factor.  While Matilda does have its moments (that Miss Trunchbull was a bear), Coraline is written with the Gaiman creepiness that I easily recognized from the adult-focused Neverwhere--and actually, there were several plot points that seemed to mirror things I read in the adult novel.  For example, the corridor between Coraline's flat and "other mother's" flat reminded me very much of the Night's Bridge in Neverwhere.  And the constant appearance of rats = Neverwhere's Rat Speakers.

Gaiman does not set out to ruin our children's psyches though.  In Coraline, there is less full-on fright, and more of an underlying sense of creepiness.  An uneasy atmosphere, created through the disconcerting imagery he provides.  The black button eyes?  The long-nailed white hands?  The quiet-but-always-watching rats?  None of these things are downright terrifying on their own (okay, maybe the eyes.  That was creepy), but taken all together, they provide just enough discomfort to make your spine tingle.

A bit more about Coraline herself.  What a precocious and amusing character!  Some of her interactions with her parents made me laugh quite a bit:
"'I didn't think you played with your dolls anymore,' said Mrs. Jones.
'I don't,' admitted Coraline.  'They're protective coloration.'
'Well, be back in time for lunch,' said her mother." (p 153)

And much like the hero-children I mentioned in Stephen King novels, her young innocence and wisdom are what lead her to triumph over her more senior foes.  (Page 20: "Coraline wondered why so few of the adults she had met made any sense.  She sometimes wondered who they thought they were talking to."  Parents just don't understand, y'all.)

I've nearly gone on here as long as the novella itself.  Can you tell I enjoyed it?  This was truly a book that transported me, mentally, back to my elementary- and middle-school reading years.  It is perfectly creepy enough for Halloween, and the eerie feel of Gaiman's other work shines through.  But Coraline's personality adds a lightness that makes this perfect for younger readers. 

(They might still have nightmares about the black button eyes though.  I'm not making any guarantees there.  Yick.)

Check out some other reviews of Coraline:
On A Book Bender
Reading Lark
The Cheap Reader
On The Wings of Books

What recent reads remind you of your childhood favorites?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Book Review: 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King




Title: 'Salem's Lot
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: October 1, 1975
Source: received as a gift in a book swap

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

'Salem's Lot is a small New England town with white clapboard houses, tree-lined streets, and solid church steeples. That summer in 'Salem's Lot was a summer of home-coming and return; spring burned out and the land lying dry, crackling underfoot. Late that summer, Ben Mears returned to 'Salem's Lot hoping to cast out his own devils... and found instead a new unspeakable horror.

A stranger had also come to the Lot, a stranger with a secret as old as evil, a secret that would wreak irreparable harm on those he touched and in turn on those they loved.

All would be changed forever—Susan, whose love for Ben could not protect her; Father Callahan, the bad priest who put his eroded faith to one last test; and Mark, a young boy who sees his fantasy world become reality and ironically proves the best equipped to handle the relentless nightmare of 'Salem's Lot.


My Review:


My love for Stephen King knows no bounds.  It started when I was in middle school and read The Shining for the first time.  Since then, I have meandered my way through the majority of his more famous works, and many of the less well-known ones too.  But for some reason, 'Salem's Lot eluded me until now.  I decided Halloween time was the perfect season to take care of that!

And what can I say that hasn't already been said?  This is a vampire story that makes me question why I ever wasted time reading the Twilight series.  (Not that I didn't already question that, but...you know what I mean.)  The Volturi have nothing on Kurt Barlow.

There is a lot of the violence and horror that Stephen King is known for (not surprising, since this is one of his earliest works).  The book did a great job keeping me up at night, wondering if the neighbors were going to try to climb through my window and go for the jugular.  Automatic literary scare points for that.  But as is typical of King horror, it isn't a mindless string of bloody deaths and empty storylines.  You get connected to the characters (and yes, you have to say some grotesque goodbyes to some many of them).  King includes a prologue that I kept referring back to throughout the book, because in the beginning, it's hard to make full sense of it--but by the end, you want to go back and re-read it to see all of the "ah-ha" moments he added in.  He's a master of putting a small detail on page 20, and then having it come back to punch you in the face on page 323, when you've fairly well forgotten it.

And of all the characters in the book, I have to say I rooted for Mark Petrie the hardest.  I read a book blog post last week that was stellar--it talked about the way Stephen King writes so many whip-smart child characters, who are often able to triumph over evil opponents in ways that adults cannot.  (If you wrote that post, email me!  I want to reference it, boo to me for not bookmarking it.)  Mark Petrie is a perfect example of this.  At just ten/eleven years old, he's not who you'd probably pick first on your ultimate vampire-killing team.  BUT YOU SHOULD.  And King references many times where Mark, as a child, is able to act swiftly and forcefully because he is not laden with the need to overreact or overthink situations, as an adult would:
"With no pause for thought or consideration (both would have come to an adult--his father, for instance--and both would have undone him), Mark swept up the cross, curled it into a tight fist, and said loudly: "Come on in, then." (p 262)

I had vaguely noticed this in other King novels (It, The Shining, Firestarter, etc.) but I think it was illustrated more strongly in Mark's case because in the group of people making the last stand against the vampires, he is the lone child surrounded by adults.  King sees a power in children that many other authors do not, and it translates well in the horror genre where so many evils await.

Oh, and the ending?  Was awesome.

I could go on for days (there are also a lot of metaphors about how 'Salem's Lot illustrates American society after Vietnam...), but I'll let you Google that stuff and stop here.  Obviously, I loved this book.  It's a horror novel with so many twists and complexities, you won't want to put it down.  Plus, it's the perfect pick with Halloween coming up in a few days!

Monday, October 1, 2012

September 2012 in Review

Here's my wrap-up for September...another great reading month!  The blog is definitely keeping me motivated these days.

I read and reviewed 7 books (click links for my reviews):
Sometimes It Snows in America by Marisa Labozzetta
The Confession by John Grisham
The Beach House by Jane Green
Where We Belong by Emily Giffin
A Drink Before The War by Dennis Lehane
Beneath The Glitter by Elle & Blair Fowler
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

I also posted a full review for 1 past read:
The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb

And 5 mini reviews of past reads:
Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Plus, I met Dennis Lehane, and celebrated my anniversary, my birthday, Bloggiesta, and Banned Book Week.  Does it get any better?

I have a lot of good books I'm looking forward to in October--can't wait to share them all with you!  I'm especially trying to find some good spooky reads for Halloween.

What are your favorite Halloween reads?

And don't forget, my Banned Book giveaway is still going on...here!
 
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