Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Stephen King - Master of Horror

The premise of Stephen King’s Cell is pure horror, with a vindictive streak and a great storyline. What comes to be known as the Pulse is broadcast to all cell phones on October 1. Anyone who answers their cell phone, or who is speaking on their cell phone, undergoes a disturbing transformation. The “Phoners”, as they come to be known, attack anyone in their path, often with grisly results. The closest thing they resemble would be zombies. It’s up to the “Normies” to not only survive, but to find their way to a place which has no cell phone reception. No one is sure when it will be safe to answer their telephones. The “Phoners” also start to display flocking symptoms and their pseudo-leader, tagged “Raggedy Man” by the protagonist, is able to control the actions of the “Normies”. Clay Riddell, the protagonist, is desperate to make it home to Maine to find his son. Clay’s son had been begging for a cell phone, typical behavior for any youngster in today’s world. Clay does not know whether he will find his son has turned into a “Phoner”, or if he is even alive.
Stephen King is the epitome of horror; the story ends with a lingering sense of doubt. Is everything going to be okay? Will the “Normies” prevail? Is there anything left to hope for? I admit I do not like reading stories where everything isn’t “solved” or rectified by the novel’s end. I admit that I have never been a horror fan – I scare easily – and the last Stephen King novel I read (It) had me peering in rain gutters for months afterwards. However, Stephen King is one of the best writers of this century and he proves with this novel that he has not slowed down. As for the vindictive streak, who hasn’t been upset with a rude cell phone user? Stephen King does not own a cell phone.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Night Journal

The Night Journal by Elizabeth Crook was packed full of historical stories, facts, and events, while being told from journal entries, and the journal writer’s great granddaughter. Meg is a likable character, who tells her side of the story as someone who is not interested in the history of her family. Her grandmother Bassie on the other hand, is almost obsessed with the past. Bassie published journals written by her mother Hannah, and from this has gained some fame in New Mexico. The story is based off of Meg’s struggle with the difficult Bassie, and there present lives, as well as a strange mystery that is uncovered in their families’ lives. The journal entries all tell a story of their own and are just as enjoyable as the present storyline. Crook did a great job of using history to draw the reader in, while providing incredibly accurate facts. I even went online to check out some events that happened because they were so attention-grabbing. Especially information about the famous hotels in New Mexico, the ruins, and the railroad in Pecos and Las Vegas, NM. And the mystery that culminates through an archeological dig is not only unexpected but also intriguing. Eventually Meg is able to appreciate her family and Bassie while assisting in solving the sudden secrets that come up. The Night Journal was a stirring read that had a little mystery, history and even romance. Definitely one of the best books I have read all year.

Friday, September 15, 2006

In Theaters September!

I’ve got the monthly update of the books made into movies for this month…finally! I can’t believe we’re through the first part of the month… they’ve redone Lassie again for the umpteenth time and I guess I always thought that Lassie was a movie and not based on the book Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight (shows you how aware I was as a child).

The ever popular true crime mystery of the hopeful movie starlet Elizabeth Short, The Black Dahlia, opens in theaters today. The novel of the same name by James Ellsroy is quite popular in our library.

All the King’s Men will be in theaters September 22, the remake of the 1949 movie, is based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Robert Penn Warren. The story of Willie Stark (loosely based on the political rise of Governor Huey Long of Louisiana). If you click on our catalog link, we not only have copies of the book but the Cliff Notes, the ebook so you can read it online (for Henderson residents), the 1949 version and the official website for Robert Penn Warren.

And last but not least, The Last King of Scotland (and no, don’t start thinking of any Highlander scenes like I did), instead think 1970 – Uganda – Idi Amin…based on British author Giles Foden’s novel which won several awards including the Whitbread First Novel award.

I’ll be more on the ball for October’s offerings. There is a ton of movies coming soon and will prove to be an exciting month!! If you can’t wait, check the Pages2Pictures page for a list of titles.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

NonFiction - White Savage

White Savage by Fintan O’Toole focuses on the life of William Johnson. Johnson is a native catholic Irishman who adopts Protestantism in order to escape repression and comes to America in the mid 1740s. He is sponsored by his uncle the great Sir Peter Warren (British Naval Admiral) to settle his land on the New York frontier. Johnson quickly establishes himself as a trader with an honorable reputation and fair-mindedness when dealing with the local Iroquois in the region. O’Toole illustrates how his catholic upbringing in Ireland (Ireland was under British rule) forced him to develop skills at compromising, negotiating, and adapting. These skills allowed him to be successful on the frontier. In fact by the mid 1750s Johnson was promoted to Superintendent for Indian Affairs for the colony of New York because of his ability to bridge cultural gaps between the British, colonists, and Iroquois. Johnson was able to court many Iroquois sachems (chiefs) to support the British interests in North America by adopting Iroquois traditions and ways. O’Toole illustrates how none of this is easy even for a charismatic individual such as Johnson. There were always political forces working against his vision, especially during the two French and Indian Wars of the 1740s and 1750s. He only really achieves his power after a successful military campaign in which he was more lucky than good. Overall the book is well researched and historically accurate. O’Toole also does an excellent job of demonstrating the complexities of European social and cultural issues and the role they played throughout William’s life. Couple those with his experiences with the Iroquois people and it is easy to see how intricate life on the American frontier in mid 18th century was. The only criticism I have of this particular book was the writing style of the author. Often O’Toole jumps from one topic to the next instead of telling the story straight through. He does this to give the reader a background for the continuation of the story of William’s life. But I often found myself flipping back to previous chapters in order to refresh my memory about what role a certain person played or how a particular experience shaped his perception, etc.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Augusten Burroughs is a good listen

I have been meaning to pick up Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs ( ever since it was published in 2002. This summer, after seeing the trailer for the movie adaptation of this memoir due out this fall, I was motivated to finally read this astonishing book. While I am not sure if listening to an audiobook actually counts as reading, I would say that listening to this particular audiobook, read by its author, was more sublime than mere page turning.

Basically, the book chronicles Augusten’s childhood in New England but don’t be expecting it to be anything like a Louisa May Alcott novel. The story is not for the faint of heart or those who are squeamish about homosexuality (though this is not the focus of the memoir, there are some passages that may be offensive and/or disturbing to some). Essentially, Augusten’s young life takes an interesting turn when his poet mother signs him over to her beyond eccentric shrink. While some memoirists may have chosen to paint this story in maudlin self-pity, Burroughs uses wit, black humor and snarky sarcasm to write his surreal coming of age story. But this isn’t just a true story based on actual events. Burroughs brings to life not only outrageous characters from his past but also the 1970’s and 1980’s.

And, again, despite the fact that Augusten’s early life was fraught with abuse (from drug to sexual abuse and lots in between), the memoir never loses its humorous tone. One offbeat anecdote details the doctor’s family’s practice of “Bible dipping”, which basically entails asking the Bible a question a la’ Magic 8 Ball and then turning to a random page, pointing to a word and trying to interpret the word as some kind of answer. Even more bizarre was the doctor’s reading of bowel movements in the same manner. The house where Augusten lived with the doctor and his family was in constant chaos. Augusten and the doctor’s youngest daughter one day decided that the kitchen needed more light so they made their own skylight by breaking through the ceiling and the roof. Rather than being enraged as most homeowner fathers would be, the doctor merely responded that the renovation let in much needed light. Obviously when it comes to this memoir, the old adage is accurate. Truth is stranger than fiction.

Once I finished the audiobook, I literally could not get enough. Lucky for me, Henderson Libraries holds Burroughs’ follow-up memoirs Dry (2003) and Possible Side Effects (2006) on audiobook, again read by the author. I am currently reading Magical Thinking (2004) and let me say that it is just not the same as listening, though I have noticed that my interior reading voice does tend to resemble Augusten’s, which is just a little unsettling.