Tag Archives: book reviews

Bedtime Stories: Fangirl

fanPost by Mark T. Locker.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.

Cather and Wren are twins (Cather Wren—Catherine—get it??), starting their first year at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. And although they have always been thick as thieves, as twins should be, bold and brash Wren wants to break out and become her own person. She doesn’t want to room with Cath, wants to party all the time, and begins teasing Cath about the fan fiction they have been writing together for years.

The Simon Snow novels are the Harry Potter books of their world. Stories of an orphaned boy with powerful, if poorly controlled, magic. He is roomed with his nemesis, a vampire named Baz, short for Tyrannus Basilton Pitch. Throughout the novels, the two spar and occasionally collaborate for the greater good. Cather and Wren, but mostly Cath, have been writing short stories about Baz and Simon, about what happens between scenes. Her fic is hugely popular, garnering tens of thousands of followers, as she attempts to finish Carry On, Simon Snow, her version of the final book in the series, before the real final book comes out.

Between bouts of storytelling, Cath learns how to be her own self, thanks in large part to her brusque and straightforward roommate Reagan, who exasperatedly tells her she has to be her friend because she’s so damn pathetic. And thanks also to Reagan’s friend Levi, whose unflappable good cheer chips slowly away at Cath’s stony, stubborn exterior.

This is a book about magic, about friendship, love, and siblings. And it’s about growing up and learning how to have parents as an adult.

The best part is that if you are intrigued by the chapters of Carry On, Simon Snow that you get a peek at, Rainbow Rowell released the entire novel, Carry On last year. Good reading for people who like witty and smart writing with just a little (not too much) drama.

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Bedtime Stories: Strange and Creepy Stories

link_getintroublePost by Mark T. Locker.

Get In Trouble by Kelly Link.

Nobody does weird and creepy quite like Kelly Link. I fell in love with her stories the first time I read “The Wrong Grave” about a self-obsessed young man whose girlfriend had died and he’d thrown a sheaf of poems into her grave, thinking it the poetically appropriate thing to do only to regret losing such amazing writing to the earth and deciding to exhume his probably terrible teenage poetry. This is one of the more likely premises of a Kelly Link story. Get In Trouble shows a bit of maturing in her writing; some of her early stories leave the reader a bit puzzled at the end, which I think was her purpose. This new collection, which was a Pulitzer finalist this year, has nine short stories covering ghost hunting reality television, fake vampire boyfriends, and superhero conventions.

Kelly Link merges the mundane and the bizarre with such casual ease that you begin to wonder what’s made up and what isn’t. The rich girl Ainslie in “The New Boyfriend” gets everything she wants, including all the boyfriends available: the Vampire Boyfriend; the Werewolf Boyfriend; and on her birthday the discontinued Ghost Boyfriend featuring Embodied and Spectral mode. He can float invisibly like a ghost. Immy is deeply jealous that Ainslie has the ghost, who she has named Mint. That’s just the first couple pages of a wonderful tale of complicated friendships and ghost boyfriends.

“The Summer People” is about a girl and her moonshiner dad who tend to vacation homes while they are abandoned. They also care for one in particular, where the Summer People live, a group of mysterious beings.

Each of her stories is dripping with atmosphere and plunges you headlong into strange and often spooky worlds. Great reading for teens and adults who like fantasy and horror but are looking for something less run of the mill.

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Bedtime Stories: Celebrations of Halloweens Past

halloweenHalloween Merrymaking: An Illustrated Celebration of Fun, Food, and Frolics from Halloweens Past by Diane Arkins

Post by Mark T. Locker.

I love Halloween. I love that dark and spooky become de rigeur for a month. I love skeletons, giant spiders, creepy sound effects. The holiday has been a phenomenon in the United States for a long time, though traditions have changed a bit over the years. Halloween Merrymaking looks at the holiday through the lens of American history and tradition.

The book is filled with cool old pictures of Halloween decorations from bygone days and informational tidbits about how the Halloween traditions have changed over the years. Mostly, this is a book about Halloween entertaining from the 19th century to now. In the early 20th century, it seems simply EVERYONE was hosting Halloween parties for adults and there were no shortage of books and magazines offering ideas for everything from invitation templates to recipe ideas. Whereas today’s angle is children and spookiness, in yesteryear, it was just as fun for adults and it was more about mystery. Invitations were always sent out anonymously, lending an extra air of mystery.

Often these mysterious parties would have a theme, like all guests must dress as ghosts, or as noted literary figures. Or maybe the hostess would be ghost. Bobbing for apples was always a good time even back then. Other party ideas have, not surprisingly, faded away such as this oddity: “Where a fireplace can be used, dip stick in strong salt water and dry them thoroughly…sticks are given to guests who throw them in the fire and perform tricks or tell stories while the it burns.” (Spooky Hallowe’en Entertainments, 1923)

halloween-1  jack-horner-pie-centerpiece

If you like Halloween and if you like the old-timey celebrations of days gone by, this book has a lot of interesting information and maybe some unusual party ideas as well!

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Bedtime Stories: The Night Circus

thenightcircusPost by Mark T. Locker.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

In 19th-century London, there are two magicians. Not sleight of hand magicians, pulling rabbits out of hats and such, but real magicians, manipulating the elements and perception. One goes by the name of Prospero the Enchanter. The other, simply Mr. A.H.- These two play a terrible kind of game of ego, finding children of magical promise, training them, and pitting them against each other in an awful competition to see who can raise the greatest magician. Prospero has already chosen a competitor: his young daughter, Celia. In response, A.H.- finds a child at the orphanage. He doesn’t bother to name the boy, but years later the boy takes the name Marco.

After years of arduous and often cruel magical training, the competition is to begin. The venue? A brand new circus is created, a magical circus that tours the world, and opens only at night. The Cirque des Rêves (Circus of Dreams) is appropriately dark, mysterious, and mystifying. Marco manages the circus from afar, quietly adding new tents showing of his magical mastery. Celia has her own show as the Illusionist. Although Marco immediately realizes that Celia is his competitor, she has no idea who she is playing against, though the recognizes his magical work.

There are a few parallel stories also being told: the German clockmaker who created the incredible (but somehow not magical) clock that sits at the entrance to the circus; the young boy in Massachusetts who sneaks in during the day on a dare; and the redheaded twins of remarkable power, Widget and Poppet, that the boy meets when he sneaks in. All the narratives weave together into a compelling tapestry.

The Night Circus is an enchanting, mysterious and at times amusing story, full of twisty paths and dead ends, much like the circus itself. If you are looking for a story to captivate you and to fill your dreams, what better place to turn than the Cirque des Rêves?

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Bedtime Stories: Cartoons for Grown-Ups

hyperbole_and_a_half_book_1Post by Mark T. Locker.

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh.

Recently I was feeling a bit down. All the news has been sad and depressing and I needed to read a book that would be sure to make me laugh out loud (actual laughing—not LOLing) and make me forget all the other stuff in the world. I was given a number of recommendations from friends but the one that came up the most was Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. With no idea what it was—so little of an idea that I looked for an audio version—I promptly put a hold on it at my local library, with no idea what I was even getting.

What I got was a unique blend of personal narrative and hilariously crude illustrations, all chronicling the formative moments of Allie Brosh’s life, from the opening story about finding a note written to future Allie from 10-year-old Allie to the story of her insanely stupid (but greatly loved) dog. Each story is complemented by a number of pictures done in Brosh’s telltale stick-figure style. The stories on their own are funny and interesting but the pictures push it to a whole new level of hilarity.

But not all the stories are flat-out funny. As one who has struggled with depression, she provides a startlingly honest look at her bouts with depression and her attempts to be understood and to deal with it. Even this is oddly funny, mostly due to her ability to see clearly where she is being unreasonable and holding, at times, hilariously unrealistic expectations.

I read this book in bed every night and couldn’t get enough. My son was super interested in it too, partly due to the fun pictures but probably mostly because I told him it was totally inappropriate for children, mostly because of language. We did let him read the story about cake. The cake story is okay for kids.

If you need some levity in your life without compromising on a smart read, read this book. Or, if you can’t wait, hit up her blog where it all began: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/

hyperbole

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