Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: What’s In My Un-Beach Bag?


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is all about what’s in my beach bag.

So, I’m totally not a beach person. Beaches in summer are usually hot and crowded. Also, the term “Beach read” makes me cringe. It brings to mind fluffy, pointless books that I forget immediately after reading. But, I do plan on reading this summer, so here are 10 books I’ll have in my un-beach bag.



What’s In My Un-Beach Bag?





Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson


A voyage for buried treasure spells trouble for cabin boy Jim Hawkins, who finds himself in the middle of a mutiny with some of the nastiest pirates to ever sail the seven seas.





Inside Out & Back Again – Thanhha Lai


For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food . . . and the strength of her very own family.





Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo


Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee. 
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. 
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.





Weird Things Customers Say In Bookstores – Jen Campbell


Filled with fun and quirky illustrations by the award-winning Brothers McLeod and featuring contributions from booksellers across the United States and Canada, as well as the author's native UK, Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores is a celebration of bookstores, large and small, and of the brilliant booksellers who toil in those literary fields, as well as the myriad of colorful characters that walk through the doors every day. This irresistible collection is proof positive that booksellers everywhere are heroes.





Within These Walls – Ania Ahlborn


With his marriage on the rocks and his life in shambles, washed up crime writer Lucas Graham is desperate for a comeback. So when he’s promised exclusive access to notorious cult leader and death row inmate Jeffrey Halcomb, the opportunity is too good to pass up. Lucas leaves New York for the scene of the crime—a split-level farmhouse on the gray-sanded beach of Washington State—a house whose foundation is steeped in the blood of Halcomb’s diviners; runaways who, thirty years prior, were drawn to his message of family, unity, and unconditional love. Lucas wants to tell the real story of Halcomb’s faithful departed, but when Halcomb goes back on his promise of granting Lucas exclusive information on the case, he’s left to put the story together on his own. Except he is not alone. For Jeffrey Halcomb promised his devout eternal life . . . and within these walls, they’re far from dead.





The Bombs That Brought Us Together – Brian Conaghan


Fourteen-year-old Charlie Law has lived in Little Town, on the border with Old Country, all his life. He knows the rules: no going out after dark; no drinking; no litter; no fighting. You don't want to get on the wrong side of the people who run Little Town. When he meets Pavel Duda, a refugee from Old Country, the rules start to get broken. Then the bombs come, and the soldiers from Old Country. Little Town changes forever.  
Sometimes, to keep the people you love safe, you have to do bad things. As Little Town's rules crumble, Charlie is sucked into a dangerous game. There's a gun, and a bad man, and his closest friend, and his dearest enemy.  
Charlie Law wants to keep everyone happy, even if it kills him. And maybe it will . . . But he's got to kill someone else first.





Purple Hibiscus – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


Fifteen-year-old Kambili’s world is circumscribed by the high walls and frangipani trees of her family compound. Her wealthy Catholic father, under whose shadow Kambili lives, while generous and politically active in the community, is repressive and fanatically religious at home.  
When Nigeria begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili’s father sends her and her brother away to stay with their aunt, a University professor, whose house is noisy and full of laughter. There, Kambili and her brother discover a life and love beyond the confines of their father’s authority. The visit will lift the silence from their world and, in time, give rise to devotion and defiance that reveal themselves in profound and unexpected ways.





Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons From The Crematory – Caitlin Doughty


Most people want to avoid thinking about death, but Caitlin Doughty—a twenty-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre—took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work. Thrown into a profession of gallows humor and vivid characters (both living and very dead), Caitlin learned to navigate the secretive culture of those who care for the deceased.





Company Of Liars: A Novel Of The Plague – Karen Maitland


The year is 1348. The Black Plague grips the country. In a world ruled by faith and fear, nine desperate strangers, brought together by chance, attempt to outrun the certain death that is running inexorably toward them.  
Each member of this motley company has a story to tell. From Camelot, the relic-seller who will become the group's leader, to Cygnus, the one-armed storyteller . . . from the strange, silent child called Narigorm to a painter and his pregnant wife, each has a secret. None is what they seem. And one among them conceals the darkest secret of all—propelling these liars to a destiny they never saw coming.





The Stranger Beside Me – Ann Rule


Ann Rule was a writer working on the biggest story of her life, tracking down a brutal mass-murderer. Little did she know that Ted Bundy, her close friend, was the savage slayer she was hunting.




Have you read any of these? What did you think?






Monday, May 22, 2017

Review: IT – Stephen King


IT – Stephen King


The story follows the exploits of seven children as they are terrorized by an eponymous being, which exploits the fears and phobias of its victims in order to disguise itself while hunting its prey. "It" primarily appears in the form of a clown in order to attract its preferred prey of young children.



Review: Now I know why my old dog had a strange habit of staring down storm drains. He wasn’t drawn to the drains by the putrid stench of drowned squirrels; he was checking for evil clowns. This makes so much sense! He was trying to protect me from cannibalistic sewer clowns. I knew he was the best dog ever. This just proves it.

Kota, the creepy clown killer. 2003-2015.


Anyway, I think most people know the basic story of IT, even if they haven’t read this massive doorstop of a book (1093 pages of itty-bitty font). The main plotline happens in 1958 and follows seven misfit 11-year-olds who call themselves the “Losers Club.” Something strange is stalking the small town of Derry, Maine. The police think it’s a serial killer who preys on children, but the Losers know the truth. The thing that’s snatching their classmates isn’t human. It’s IT: a shapeshifting demon that lives under the town.

The story takes place on two timelines. In the 1950s timeline, the Losers Club is trying to solve the mysteries of IT without being taken by the monster themselves. The 1980s timeline follows the Losers as adults. They learn that IT is once again stalking the children of Derry. This time, they won’t let IT escape.

It’s hard to know where to start with this review. IT is one of the longest books I’ve ever read, and there’s a lot going on in my brain right now. Prepare for a ramble.

The story is about friendship and how adversity brings people together. The Losers become friends because they’re all targets of the same bullies. The school bullies drive them together, and then they team up to defeat the biggest bully of all: IT.

Each of the kids in the Club has his/her own realistic struggles. Bill, the Club’s leader, has a bad stutter and is struggling to cope with the death of his brother. Eddie is an anxious hypochondriac whose mother tries to keep him sick. Ben is a chubby bookworm. Richie is an unintentional racist with impulse-control problems. Beverly lives in the poor part of town with her controlling father. Stan is a depressed Jewish kid. The seventh member, Mike, is one of the few black kids in town and has to deal with racist threats from people who don’t want his family living there. My favorite is Ben. He’s sweet, intelligent, and mature for his age. Stephen King tends to kill off the majority of the characters in his novels, so I was rooting for Ben to survive.

I like that King shows the Losers Club members together and separately. When they’re together, they battle a supernatural creature, but when they’re apart, they battle the real-life horrors in their daily lives. Some of the real-life problems are scarier than the shapeshifting clown. I think that’s the mark of a good horror story: There’s reality behind the monster.

“Maybe there aren't any such things as good friends or bad friends—maybe there are just friends, people who stand by you when you're hurt and who help you feel not so lonely. Maybe they're always worth being scared for, and hoping for, and living for. Maybe worth dying for too, if that's what has to be. No good friends. No bad friends. Only people you want, need to be with; people who build their houses in your heart.” – IT

IT is about memory and how friendships change over the years. The Losers are inseparable, but then they grow up and part ways. Eventually, they realize that it’s been years since they thought about each other. They forget the small things that were important to them as kids. When they meet up again as adults, they’re practically strangers. The reader knows that after they defeat IT, they’ll go back to their different lives and become strangers once again. It’s sad, but it’s real.

“Come on back and we’ll see if you remember the simplest thing of all – how it is to be children, secure in belief and thus afraid of the dark.” - IT

Like in all of King’s books, the setting in this one is fantastic. Derry is creepy because it’s relatable. It could be any small American town. “The Barrens” where the Losers play reminds me of the gulch where I played when I was a kid. The sewers under Derry are disgusting and the perfect place to battle an evil shapeshifter. Everything that happens in the story was easy for me to picture.

IT isn’t the first Stephen King book I’ve read. I think I would have been more impressed with IT if it was my first. Since it wasn’t, I had high expectations. In many ways, IT didn’t live up to them.

First, the book is way too long. The plot sometimes stops moving. There’s one part where the characters sit in a Chinese restaurant and reminisce about their childhoods for what feels like hundreds of pages. After the restaurant, they go to the library and reminisce some more. I have a deep love for Chinese food and libraries, but I was bored out of my freakin’ mind. There’s an evil clown-monster terrorizing children! The clown killers do not need to have a leisurely lunch!

Speaking of the clown, the clown killing takes up a surprisingly small part of the novel. Since the book is so huge, I expected the villain to be hard to beat. It isn’t. There’s a ton of buildup to a short battle. It made me wonder why we needed all that buildup.

A lot of the buildup is unnecessary backstory. We get the whole history of the town and the life story of every minor character, even the ones who will be dead in a few pages. I like that King writes about unwholesome small towns, but there’s too much history in this book. I wanted to get to the clown battle.

IT isn’t my favorite Stephen King novel (The Green Mile gets that honor), but I liked it for the most part. I loved the setting and was rooting for the characters to succeed. I just wanted the end to come earlier. I’m not patient enough for 1000-page novels.

“Eddie discovered one of his childhood's great truths. Grownups are the real monsters, he thought.” - IT   






Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Sunday Post #97


The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to recap the past week, talk about next week, and share news. It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Book Date. I get to tell you what I’ve read recently.




On The Blog Last Week







On The Blog This Week


  • On Monday I review IT by Stephen King.
  • On Tuesday I show you what’s in my un-beach bag.
  • On Wednesday I review Sex with the Queen: 900 Years of Vile Kings, Virile Lovers, and Passionate Politics by Eleanor Herman.
  • On Saturday I have part 4 of my Massive Spring Book Haul.





In My Reading Life


It snowed again last week, so I actually got some reading done. I finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling and The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson. Then I read There Once Lived a Mother Who Loved Her Children, Until They Moved Back In: Three Novellas About Family by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya. Right now, I’m reading The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick.







In The Rest Of My Life


Five things that made me happy last week:

  1. The dogs got groomed. Now they’re fluffy, and they don’t smell like ass.
  2. I cleaned so much. I hated every second of the cleaning, but I’m glad my rooms are clean.
  3. I wrote some blog posts. You’re probably like “duh,” but it’s actually been about 2 weeks since I did any serious blogging. I’ve mostly been relying on scheduled posts.
  4. I accidentally acquired more books. Oops.
  5. Taking pictures of squirrels. Now I have a million squirrel photos to edit.





Take care of yourselves and be kind to each other! See you around the blogosphere! 












Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Massive Spring Book Haul (Part 3)


Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews. I get to show off all the books I’ve gotten recently. I’ve acquired an insane number of books in the past few months. I’m going to show them to you in batches so that neither of us gets overwhelmed.





Purple Hibiscus – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


Fifteen-year-old Kambili’s world is circumscribed by the high walls and frangipani trees of her family compound. Her wealthy Catholic father, under whose shadow Kambili lives, while generous and politically active in the community, is repressive and fanatically religious at home. 
When Nigeria begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili’s father sends her and her brother away to stay with their aunt, a University professor, whose house is noisy and full of laughter. There, Kambili and her brother discover a life and love beyond the confines of their father’s authority. The visit will lift the silence from their world and, in time, give rise to devotion and defiance that reveal themselves in profound and unexpected ways.





The Lottery and Other Stories – Shirley Jackson


The Lottery, one of the most terrifying stories written in this century, created a sensation when it was first published in The New Yorker. "Powerful and haunting," and "nights of unrest" were typical reader responses. This collection, the only one to appear during Shirley Jackson's lifetime, unites "The Lottery" with twenty-four equally unusual stories. Together they demonstrate Jackson's remarkable range—from the hilarious to the truly horrible—and power as a storyteller.





Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons From The Crematory – Caitlin Doughty


Most people want to avoid thinking about death, but Caitlin Doughty—a twenty-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre—took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work. Thrown into a profession of gallows humor and vivid characters (both living and very dead), Caitlin learned to navigate the secretive culture of those who care for the deceased.





Company Of Liars: A Novel Of The Plague – Karen Maitland


The year is 1348. The Black Plague grips the country. In a world ruled by faith and fear, nine desperate strangers, brought together by chance, attempt to outrun the certain death that is running inexorably toward them. 
Each member of this motley company has a story to tell. From Camelot, the relic-seller who will become the group's leader, to Cygnus, the one-armed storyteller . . . from the strange, silent child called Narigorm to a painter and his pregnant wife, each has a secret. None is what they seem. And one among them conceals the darkest secret of all—propelling these liars to a destiny they never saw coming.





The Stranger Beside Me – Ann Rule


Ann Rule was a writer working on the biggest story of her life, tracking down a brutal mass-murderer. Little did she know that Ted Bundy, her close friend, was the savage slayer she was hunting.




Wow, I got some morbid books. Have you read any of these? What did you think?






Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Hogwarts Tag



Like pretty much everyone else on Earth, I love Harry Potter, so this tag is perfect for me.




Am I a pureblood, half-blood, or Muggle born?


Probably a half-blood, but my older family members pretend to be pureblood because #status. Also, there’s less of a chance of dying if you’re pureblood. Not dying in a wizarding war would be optimal.







Which wand chose me?


Cedar, unicorn hair, 14 inches, reasonably supple. (My wand is bigger than your wand.)






Did I take an owl, cat, rat, or toad with me?


Can I have a thestral? If not, than an owl. Owls seem to be the most useful, don’t they? Owls deliver mail. What do the other animals do?







Where did the sorting hat put me?








What house did I want to be in?


I’m cool with being a Ravenclaw. I like all the houses, so I don’t have a preference.






What lessons are my favorite and least favorite?


My favorites are probably defense against the dark arts, herbology, and care of magical creatures. My least favorites . . . which ones make me do math? Potions and astronomy sound like they might involve math. I’d rather jump off the Astronomy Tower than take a math class.







The form my patronus takes?




Nacho platter. I operate under the assumption that everybody loves nachos, even dementors. If they saw the nachos, they’d go for the platter and lose interest in my soul.





According to the official test, my patronus is a marsh harrier. I had to Google that. Turns out, it’s a swamp hawk that lives everywhere except the Americas. You learn something new every day, right?






What does a boggart look like for me?


Crippling depression? Irredeemable failure? Complete humiliation? Incurable deadly disease? If those are too abstract, then it’s probably a dead family member or a bug. I freakin’ hate bugs.







Do I partake in any magical hobbies or school sports?


No. In school, I was a loner. Everybody loved sports, and partying, and clubbing. I was just . . . no.







Where would I find myself hanging in my free time?


Where does Hagrid keep the magical creatures? I’d be hanging out with them, probably cuddling Fluffy. Or exploring the castle grounds. Or in the greenhouses.







What would I most likely get detention for?


Wandering into the Forbidden Forest. You can’t call something a Forbidden Forest and not expect me to get curious. If you called it Giant Spider Forest, I’d stay away. This proves that places shouldn’t have vague names.







What career do I want after leaving Hogwarts?


Does Hogwarts need a writing professor? I’m qualified. I could email over my CV right now.

Working in the Department of Mysteries would be awesome, but I’m not good at keeping secrets. I think I’d like to search for new species of magical plants and animals.









Do you want to do this tag? Consider yourself tagged.