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Carrie (novel) Review

It’s finally happened: I found a Stephen King book that I like. It took seventeen years and about ten books to get to this book. Well, King did write like a hundred books so it was inevitable I’d find one. It’s also King’s first book and the one he hates the most.

That book is Carrie. The book about an awkward girl who is constantly picked on by other girls and is beaten by her super-religious mother. She also has psychic powers that she uses to get her revenge.

One thing that is obvious is that this is one of King’s shortest books at 290 pages. People are so used to seeing a Stephen King book being around 1,000 pages that when they see a book this short it’s a shock. Am I saying I liked this book because it was short? Not in the least.

You see, this book is not long winded at all. The amount of content in this book is just right to tell the story. Also, the writing is pretty solid which makes this book a page-turner (I read this book in three days.)

Let’s look at some of the writing styles used in this book. There’s the traditional narrative form which is well written. King also adds nonfiction writing such as news stories, memoirs, letters and medical journals. It takes a lot of talent to get all of these styles to be interesting. King does manage to do that in a way that flows nicely. Normally, when a writer changes writing styles in a book it’s like hitting a high wall and then trying to climb it to get back to solid ground. Some writers can do this right, but some can’t.

What’s not great is some of the fluff in the book. The fluff I’m talking about is some of the scenes with Chris and Billy. Billy really only has one purpose in the book: Collect the pig blood. And Chris is there just to tag along. These two are the least interesting characters in the book.

Of course, what everyone talks about is how different this book is than the movie (the 1976 version anyway.) In the movie, Carrie is super skinny while here she’s chunky. Other changes are Miss Desjardin doesn’t die in the book, Carrie just kills her mom without a big fight, Carrie destroys the entire town instead if just the school and Carrie actually ENJOYED killing people. Yes, the book describes Carrie as smiling while she kills people. That right there is a lot scarier.

In all, King may not like Carrie but I did. It has some great writing conventions that make it worth reading. It may be scary like people make it out to be, but it’s still one of King’s better books. It has made me want to go back and give his other books a second chance.

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Go Ask Alice Review

*Sigh* Look, I understand I’m in the right age groups for this book, but I can, at least, appreciate YA novels. Hell, YA can be awesome. The problem is, at least, make an attempt to not insult the intelligence of the reader and write a well-written story. Go Ask Alice is one of those books that make you wonder why did it sell so many copies.

Go Ask Alice is about a teenage girl who one year goes to stay with her grandparents and meets a group of kids that are iffy at best. That is how she first starts to takes drugs which would then ruin her life.

First, let’s get one thing straight: This book is pure fiction. Just look at the copyright page of the book and it says, “this book is a work of fiction.” It’s obvious it’s fiction because of the writing. No teenage girl can use those big words. Not to mention a teenage girl in the seventies would not call their parents mother and father.

As for the writing itself, it’s pretty bland. As a book that’s written as a diary, it is not engaging at all and the stuff that happens isn’t all that realistic. Yes, realistic. It’s obvious this book is meant to be an anti-drug ad, but some of the stuff are ridiculous. Teens really don’t start off with acid. Marijuana is usually the starting point and that’s usually where it ends. Pills like speed, maybe. Hard stuff like acid and LSD are WAY too expensive for a teen and the highs those give are more terrifying than exhilarating.

Hell, she then SELLS drugs. Seriously, she becomes a drug dealer. Becoming a drug dealer is a LOT harder than the book makes it out to be. It would be more realistic for a teen to sell his sleeping pills, ADHD pills or antidepressants. Marijuana and other drugs require a supplier, something a lot of teens don’t have.

Also, the book reads like something D.A.R.E would come up with. The thing about these organizations is that, yes, their hearts are in the right place but teens think of them as jokes.

All in all, Go Ask Alice is purely fictionalized propaganda that doesn’t know anything about teens and drug use in teens. You may have read this book in school or may read it for a class. Expect to hate this book because it’s just pure poorly written silliness.

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A Christmas Treasury of Yuletide Stories and Poems Review

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” is one of the most famous quotes about Santa Claus. Like many people, I heard the quote but had no idea where it came from. Apparently it’s from an editorial from the September 21, 1897, edition of the New York Sun answering a letter called “Is There a Santa Claus” from a girl named Virginia O’Hanlon. The only way I was able to read this editorial was from a book called  A Christmas Treasury of Yuletide Stories and Poems.

I came upon this book when I decided to attend my local church’s bazaar a few years back and they were selling it for a dollar. I bought it and completely forgot about it up until a week ago (yes, I DO have that many books that I forget what I have.) It’s also worth noting that this book is out of print.  Don’t worry, you can still buy this on Amazon for 12¢.

After perusing this book, there are quite a few nifty poems and stories pertaining to Christmas. Like I said, it has Virginia’s letter in it so that’s pretty cool. This book also has The Gift of the Magi and Christmas Every Day. These are stories that have become essential reading for Christmas reading. There’s also the songs Three Kings of Orient (you know, “we three kings of Orient are, bearing gifts we traverse afar”) and  Silent night, Holy Night.

One of the strangest inclusions is A Christmas Carol in Prose by Charles Dickens. I thought it was a different story/poem, but it was actually A Christmas Carol in it entirety. Yes, this book has A Christmas Carol along with other stories and poems. That right there is well worth the price.

There are also stories/poems by William Shakespeare, L. Frank Baum (yes, that L Frank Baum,) Hans Christian Anderson, Washington Irving, Nathanial Hawthorne (yup,) Oscar Wilde, Leo Tolstoy  and T.S Eliot.

It’s a pity that this book is out of print. There really should be a revised version of it because there is a lot of great stuff in here. Get it from the library, buy it on Amazon or if you can find it in your local bookstore (please do. Small bookstores tend to be awesome) get it. There’s a ton of stuff here for the literary minded and those who want to read good Christmas writing.

 

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Who Censored Roger Rabbit Review

We’re all familiar with the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit, right? The story about a hardnosed detective who hates ‘toons is forced to help out a ‘toon rabbit who is wanted for murder. It’s one of Bob Hoskins’ best movies. What most people don’t know is that this movie, like a lot of movies, is based on a novel. That novel is Who Censored Roger Rabbit by Gary K. Wolf. The problem with this book is that it’s super rare and hard to find a physical copy. My library has a copy of it in storage, and I was lucky enough to read it.

The first thing that’s apparent about this book is the plot. Hardnosed detective Eddy Valiant is asked by a ‘toon named Roger Rabbit to investigate why his boss, Rocco DeGreasy, refuses to give a solo contract. That is until Roger is murdered and, worst yet, Rocco was murdered before him making Roger the prime suspect. Now Eddy needs to find out who the real murderer is.

That’s a lot different than the movie. Also, the tone of the book is a lot more serious. Sadly, this book isn’t all that great. You see, having cartoon characters is a great concept. The problem is this book reads like the typical pulp mystery novel with cartoons thrown in for the hell of it.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the book is bad. The book is well written enough to please people who are into this particular genre. The problem is it doesn’t live up the standards the movie had.

Now, I’m not saying the movie is high art. It does, however, have  a lot of techniques that were really hard to pull off in the 80s. This movie pulled it off so great that you really think that a real life person is interacting with a cartoon character. Not to mention music, acting and story and you have a classic.

Am I saying the movie is better? Yes, I am. In fact, Wolf rewrote the book to make it closer to the movie. This is one of those times where the movie is better than the book.

Who Censored Roger Rabbit Review may have been the basis for the movie, but the movie outdid the movie by miles. If you want to read the book just to get an idea of where it all came from go ahead. Just don’t expect anything great out of it.

 

 

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Anthem Review

Ayn Rand.

That’s all you need to say in order to spark a huge political/philosophical debate.  Go on any message board that has Ayn Rand or her books and you’ll see people argue over her political views like it’s the debate team in high school. Like many, I have heard of Rand from that one South Park episode where Officer Barbrady quits reading after reading Atlas Shrugged.

I do have Atlas Shrugged, but am iffy about reading it. I did pick up Rand’s much, much shorter work Anthem. After reading this, I’m a little worried about Atlas Shrugged.

In a, what else, dystopian future humans are pretty much slaves to this society. Everything is controlled by different palaces down to what your name is and what your role in society is. Equality 7-2521 (yes, that’s the main lead’s name) is a street sweeper who, like everyone else, does what he’s told. One day him a fellow street sweeper find a hole that leads to a relic from the Unmentionable Times (a subway) and slowly he defies this dystopian society.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: The main lead ( I am NOT going to call him by his name. Let’s call him Joe) and everyone in this world refers to each other as “we” and “they.” This goes on throughout the book up until the last two chapters. Yes, there is supposed to be a point to the “we” and “they” but after a while it just gets annoying. Not to mention after a while I was expecting Joe to blurt out “filthy hobbitses. We hates them, precious.”

No, seriously. don’t lie to yourself. You will start expecting that response if you decide to read this book.

On the whole, this really isn’t a very good book. The plot is weak as hell. He finds something from the past, rediscovers lightning (yes) and then flees. That’s the entire plot. This book is more along the lines as a political/philosophical manifesto than an actual novel. The problem is the whole “don’t trust the government. The government is evil” bit has been so much in other books. In fact, Anthem may only be 90 pages but it feels like 400.

Not to mention the whole subplot of Joe meeting the girl (let’s call her Kim.) She doesn’t serve any purpose except to be an obvious allegory to how poorly women  are treated in society. She could be completely left out of the book and nothing will change. She literally does NOTHING throughout the book.

Don’t get me started on the last chapter. In the last chapter, Joe and Kay stop calling each other “we” and instead use the proper “I.” Which is fine until Joe decides to give each other new names. He names himself Prometheus and Kay Gaea. This is so pretentious that you can see Rand patting herself on the back for “a job well done.”

In all, Anthem just isn’t all that worth reading. It has a piss poor plot, a terrible message and is a chore to read. If this is what’s to be expected from Rand, then maybe Atlas Shrugged will push me to never read again.

 

 

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The Little Prince Review

I love children and young adult books. Not because they’re easy to read, but because many books in these genres put forth themes that adults may think kids can’t handle. One such book is Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince. Now some people will read the previous sentence and think I’m making things up. This is a book for children.

To these people I say, you’re what Saint-Exupery is dissing in this. You only see things at face value and not what’s important.

For those who’ve never read this book, it’s about an unnamed man who, while flying solo over Africa, crash- lands in the desert. Here he meets what looks like a little boy but is actually a prince who lives alone on a tiny planet no bigger than an asteroid. The Prince tells the man his story of how he got to earth.

For a book for children, it sure has a lot of things for everyone to think about. One of the obvious ones is how adults view the world versus how children view it. Children see a much bigger picture and adults only see what they want. What Saint-Exupery is saying here is that there’s a lot more to the world than what we see. It’s just that adults refuse to see it.

There is a part of the book where the Prince goes to various planets inhabited by a single adult. It’s here where we get some societal commentary. Each adult is only interested in their own things and nothing else. There’s a king who only cares about bossing people around, a drunk who only cares about drinking and a lamp lighter who’s constantly opening a closing a lamp because “orders.” The is confused by all of these.

He should be confused by it. You see, this is exactly how a kid would react. Kids have this view of the view that everything is important and must have some reason behind it and they’ll figure out that reason dammit. The problem is adults tend to give the “just because” answer every time. What this does is it turns kids into adults that accept this “just because” mentality.

This anti-adult mentality may come across as Saint-Exuperywriting for children, but once you dig deeper he’s actually begging adults to be more open to the world and see that things are much more than what they appear.

This is the reason why this book is a classic. It doesn’t talk down to kids. Instead, it makes them see that there is more to the world than what adults tell them there is. It also tells adults to be more like kids.

The Little Prince has a lot going for it not despite it’s a kids book, but because it is a kids book. It’s like some cartoons: Just because it’s a kids book show does not mean that kids are stupid. They are a lot smarter than what us adults think they are. Give this book a read and see for yourselves.

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To Kill a Mockingbird Review

Yup, I am one of those people who have jumped on the bandwagon and read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird before Lee’s new book came out. Here’s the odd thing about me reading this book: I was never required to read it in school. Usually in high school this is the first book they throw at you. I did have to read The Giver twice, though.

Anyway, I read this not just because they found Lee’s old manuscript for Go Set a Watchman, but also this is one of those “must read” books. What did I think of the book? The short answer can be found in this video I used in my Brave New World review.

The long answer, I found most of the book boring. Yes, that’s right. A book that many people love was an instant best-seller when it came out and won Lee a Pulitzer bored me. You see, the writing is phenomenal. Lee has a knack for writing I can give her that. The way the characters speak and how she describes things feel like they are real. I was able to hear the Southern accents in their speech.

The problem I had with the book is that nothing interesting happens. Notice how I said nothing interesting instead of nothing? That’s because stuff does happen, but they are pretty dull. Scout and Jem go to school. Scout and Jem celebrate Christmas with a cousin they hate. Jem ruins a neighbor’s flower bed and must read to her.

You see, these things are mundane. Not that there’s anything wrong with writing about mundane things. House on Mango Street, A Streetcar Named Desire and Annie John do wonderful jobs at making the mundane interesting. The problem with Mockingbird is that these particular mundane events are not interesting. They’re too mundane to be exact.

The best part of the book is the trial scene. This scene is pretty one the biggest reasons people read this book. The thing is, the trial does not start until page 160 and lasts for about 60 pages. This scene had it all. It was suspenseful, well-written and it showed one of the book’s biggest themes: Racism. You see, here it’s a black man wrongfully accused of raping a white woman. Everything the woman and her dad didn’t add up which meant Atticus had it in the bag. But, since this does take place in 193os Alabama, the black man was found guilty. Not only is that racist, but it’s downright unjust.

It’s too bad that the events of the trial had very little impact on the plot or the characters. Hell, the book even says people in Maycomb forgot about it.

In the end, I’m glad I read this book because I just crossed something off my bucket list. However, I did not enjoy it as much as I wanted to. It was way too boring. I will read Go Set a Watchman when I get from my library (I’m number 242 on the list. Yup, it’s that popular) and there will be a review posted here. It will take a while, but don’t worry; I have other projects in mind.

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Ready Player One Review

I’m a gamer. I’m also a product of the 80s and 90s. So, whenever there’s anything nostalgic I go crazy like the good geek I am. Hell, I’ll argue to the death that the best Grand Theft Auto game is Vice City. Ready Player One By Ernest Cline is one of those that do appeal to people like me: It’s a book that takes place in a video game and has 80s pop culture all over it.

Sadly, nostalgia is all it has going for it.

In the year 2044 the world has gone down the toilet. Unemployment is at its highest ever, everything’s super expensive and most people live in motor homes that are stacked one atop each other. So people spent most of their time in an online world called the Oasis. When the inventor of Oasis died, he set out a quest for people to find an Easter egg in the Oasis. Whoever finds it inherits his company. Wade, an out of shape kid who is one of many people who love the 80s, stumbles upon a way to figure out where the Easter egg is. On his way, he comes into contact with other treasure hunters and corporate drones trying to find it.

This story really isn’t anything new. Hell, the idea of someone doing adventures inside of video games has been around for decades (Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad, Sword Art Online and Log Horizon come to mind,) but, still, it’s an interesting premise. The problem is Cline has this habit of showing off his 80s knowledge. It wouldn’t be bad if he did it once in a while, but he does it every other page. It gets to the point where he halts the story just to exposit some 80s knowledge.

Hell, he even exposits everything. Even things he told about before. He will tell the same thing you already learned just a few pages later.

In fact, telling instead of showing is one the biggest sins of this book. The pros are bland beyond anything. You’ll find yourself skimming after the first 50 pages. Other problems with the story are the characters are cliched and unlikable. Just because the characters act like the typical know-it-all asshole gamer doesn’t mean that’s good character creation.

Hell, the characters don’t develop AT ALL! Wade is the same bland character throughout. In fact, let’s talk about Wade. He’s the typical cliche overweight loser geek who has all this geeky knowledge at his disposable. Basically, he’s EVERY GEEK/NERD CHARACTER FROM EVERYTHING IMAGINABLE!

Not to mention he conveniently has the right geeky knowledge when he needs it. This is what us writers call deus ex machina. It’s so badly done and overused that you lose all tension as to whether he will win in the end (SPOILERS: He does.) Hey Cline, do you know who else knows a lot about 80s pop culture? Every geek over 30.

Speaking of the 80s and gaming, did you know that there was a video game crash in the 80s because there were too many bad games coming out? Also, not every 80s movie was good (see every Friday the 13th movie after A New Beginning and almost every sci-fi/ fantasy movie.)

Ready Player One had the potential to be something geeks would love. Bad writing, bland characters and amateurish writing make this book about as interesting as playing Pac-Man for the Atari 2600.

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The Strange Library Review

Haruki Murakami. That name alone makes most people cringe because he’s one those novelists hipsters love. I’m no hipster so it goes without saying I don’t like him. I have read 1Q84 and South of the Border, West of the Sun. The former was terrible and the later was a resounding meh. Hell, I had an art class where we had to read a novel (from the list the professor gave,) bind our own book and draw the themes into our books. My book was South of the Border and, sure enough, 80% of what I drew were sex scenes. My professor told me there was so much more to SOTB and I told him, no, the book is about some guy who’s horny for some girl he met as a kid, she leaves and the guy screws any girl he gets his hands on. When he’s in his forties he reunites with the girl, screws her and he’s happy. That’s it.

Recently I came across Murakami’s new book, The Strange Library and since it’s insanely short, I decided to read. You know what? This is the best Murakami (read: the only good) book I’ve ever read.

The story is about this kid who wanders into a library and asks to take out a few books. The librarian takes him to the library’s basement where he puts the kid into a dungeon and tells him to memorize the books or die. Now the kid, along with a mysterious girl and a sheep man, must escape.

This is a rather brilliant setup. You see, libraries are quiet places for people to read (or surf the web.) The idea of a library having this scary monster and a dungeon is unexpected. There’s also that one human aspect of being held against your will be something that’s supposed to be innocent and then being helped by actual innocents. That right there hits many people close to home.

The writing is decent for the most part. It does convey what’s going on and character emotion well. However, it reads like it is a YA novel instead of an adult novel. There’s nothing wrong with YA, it’s just that it doesn’t belong in this books.

This book has some artwork in it that’s hit or miss. They are very colorful interpretations of certain events in the book. The ones with the shoe, the old man and the starry night are marvelous. The others just don’t make any sense. What’s with the moon/donut image?

In all, The Strange Library is a Murakami book for people who don’t like Murakami. It has a great plot and execution with some nice pictures despite some setbacks. I might try Murakami again, but don’t bet money on it.

 

 

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The Library of Unrequited Love Review

Have you ever been stuck in a library overnight and then had a long conversation with a librarian the next day? What do you mean that’s never happened? Then how do you explain Sophie Divry’s debut book The Library of Unrequited Love? What do you mean it’s a novel? My life is a total lie.

In all seriousness, I came across this while roaming my library (people still do that, or am I getting old?) It seemed interesting, so I picked up. It’s actually quite an interesting read.

The really isn’t much of a plot here. Basically, you wake up in the stacks section of the library when a librarian tells you you’ve been sleeping there all night. Instead of just telling you to go home, she gives up a 90-page rant on what it’s like being a librarian and how bad her life is.

That’s it. No conflict, no major characters. Just a librarian talking directly to you for 90 pages.

Since I’ve never worked in a library I was only able to get about 70% of what Divry was trying to say. What I did get was something any book nerd would understand. From her rants about how people only use libraries for internet and free AC/heat, to how people today only really read comics. Not that there’s anything against comics (I have reviewed a few here,) it’s just you do need literature in your life.

What’s that? You only read what’s popular or what the airport newsstand sells? This book has an entire section on that too. It’s a wild ride to read a book nerd rant about such things in an actual book. It’s almost as if the book is talking to you.

Librarians will love this book because, hey, this is a librarian’s rant. Everything the librarian says in this book is spot on to what every librarian complains about.

Of course, since this is someone’s rant, the writing needs to be something phenomenal. This is something Divry excels at. The librarian’s voice is interesting to read, plus the content of what she says is interesting. She grabs your attention from the first word to the last. It’s a rarity that a rant can keep a reader’s attention for 90 pages.

The only downfall of this book is the librarian’s unhealthy obsession with a man she barely knows. It’s borderline creepy. Of course, there is a reason why it’s there; It’s to show another level of loneliness on the librarian’s part. It just comes off as creepy near the end, it creates a sort of cat lady vibe.

One thing that needs to be addressed here is the type of book itself. What exactly can you categorize it? This is one of those novels that are impossible to categorize. Basically, something publishers hate. Maclehose Press took a gamble bringing this book over to America and I can say this book does deserve more readers than what it has now. It is one of those experimental books that are actually interesting. And, no, there is no pretension here.

The Library of Unrequited Love is a fabulous librarian’s rant that took a chance and came out on top. Do yourself a favor and read this book. Afterward, give it to your favorite librarian. S/he will thank you in spades.

 

 

 

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