Oct 29, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books to Read During Halloween

Every October I go crazy for the following reasons:

  1.  Stores have Christmas decorations out and that is 100% unacceptable.
  2. I spend weeks making my Halloween costumes because I don't like buying costumes and I need an outlet for my creativity.
  3. CANDY!
  5. Reading spooky-esque books to get in the spirit.

I'm not exactly a fan of horror and slasher films and/or books, so my list of Halloween selections are not all traditional thriller titles.  There are many terrors out there that are just as scary as monsters, so I've put together a list of books that I've read during Halloween before and am currently reading that encompass that scary spirit.

Books to Read During Halloween

1. Horns, by Joe Hill


A man wakes up as the devil incarnate - fitting as his hometown believes him guilty of the most devilish of crimes.

2. Are You in the House Alone?, by Richard Peck

A teenage babysitter is not only stalked and raped, but is further tormented when officials want to protect her rapist.

3. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

A world where firefighters burn books rather than fight fires.  Aka, a librarian's nightmare.

4. Mommy?, by Maurice Sendak

A delightful pop-up book featuring a haunted mansion full of monsters and a baby in search of his mother.

5. Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

For the romantic Halloween fan, a young girl destined to become Light or Dark on her sixteenth birthday must sacrifice either her life with her uncle or her life with her boyfriend.

6.  This Dark Endeavor, by Kenneth Oppel

A prequel to Frankenstein, where the future mad scientist develops a taste for raising the dead.

7. Diamonds in the Shadows, by Caroline Cooney

An American family takes in a family of four African refugees, not knowing that they are being hunted down by a fifth refugee who entered the country undetected.

8. I am the Cheese, by Robert Cormier

A boy uncover his past while under interrogation by the government, but what is real?

9. Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer, by Katie Alender

This one has thriller like elements, but it was more amusing to me than anything. The ghost of Marie Antoinette seeks revenge on family members of those who wronged her and brought her to her death.

10. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding

A chilling tale of survival and the fast decline from civilization to barbaric tendencies. 

Oct 18, 2013

#TheList, No. 811: The Witch of Blackbird Pond

I've abandoned my randomly generated list in order to tackle some of the more Halloween-y appropriate books this month.  Last week was Violet Park's Me, the Missing, and the Dead.  This week, I revisited one of my favorite books I read for class in the fifth grade: Elizabeth George Speare's Newbery Medal-winning novel, The Witch of Blackbird Pond.

After her grandfather's death, Kit Tyler, sails from Barbados to Connecticut to live with her only living family members.  While Kit knows she will be welcomed into the family, she does not anticipate the strict religious beliefs governing every move in her new Puritanical home. Kit struggles to adjust to the Puritan lifestyle while maintaining her own beliefs. Her often unconventional behavior immediately arouses suspicion throughout the town and it is only made worse when she befriends a Quaker woman whom many believe to be a witch. 

There's a lot to work with in this piece of historical fiction: the value of hard work, the pressure to adapt to change, the right to education, the right to independent beliefs, the need to accept others with varying viewpoints, etc. My favorite is how the strength of women is explored in both positive and negative lights. Kit is a positive force - resisting conformity through charitable actions for those deemed unworthy. The "witch," Kit's family, and Prudence are also positive reflections of women's strength. But throughout the novel "women's talk" is used as a weapon against those who are different. It saturates the town and becomes powerful enough to drive a woman into hiding and bring another to trial. It's a realistic portrayal of the fanaticism that really existed during the witch trials and it's interesting to contrast it to the actions of the other positive female characters in the novel.

A few of the students have seen me with this book and have exclaimed that it's one of their favorites. That makes me happy.  Sure, the ending might be a little too happy than realistic, but it's still a great way to introduce children to the actual events of that time period. 

Oct 11, 2013

#TheList, No. 1001: Finding Violet Park

Through a strange turn of events, teenager Lucas Swain gains possession of an abandoned urn containing the ashes of a Violet Park. While researching Violet, Lucas unknowingly begins to call up his father's mysterious past. Lucas' father disappeared five years ago.  No one knows where or why he ran away, or if he ran away at all. Lucas is frozen in time, clutching onto his father's belongings because he doesn't have the memories to sustain him.  His research, however, finally allows Lucas an out, as he learns that "dead" doesn't just have to be a physical condition.  

Finding Violet Park, by Jenny Valentine, was originally published in London. It was later republished in America as Me, the Missing, and the Dead, which is the title I picked up and, after finishing the book, that I prefer. I don't know if I would have picked up this book if it weren't on The List, but I'm glad I read it. I enjoyed the various perspectives of the missing and the dead. Dead doesn't have to mean "dead" if that person's memory and life remain with you. On the other hand, missing can can equate with dead - Lucas' father is gone and no longer a worthy part of his life. Lucas' actions at the close of the book confirm his feelings on this matter. The newer title creates three categories that, throughout the course of the novel, Lucas realizes can all be intertwined depending on his actions. For five years, he's been missing his life, instead clinging on to what is no longer present. Finding Violet Park is just a small piece of the puzzle that leads him to eventual catharsis. 

The novel contains dark humor (for instance, Lucas provides a list of good reasons to make friends with a dead lady in an urn), realistic portrayals of family and extended family, and an interesting mystery to carry forth the discussion of what it means to be dead or missing.  It'd be an interesting choice to include in a Halloween display as it's spooky in a nontraditional sense.  

Oct 10, 2013

Library Card Woes

Last month, my wallet was stolen.  I went through the typical stages: panicked frenzy, denial, double checking account balances, replacing cards, and cursing the identity of whoever tried to maybe steal mine. But still looming over my head is the fact that my library card is gone.

I know I need to get a new one and go through the process of getting the number registered in all the networks I frequent (this is making me teary eyed),  but I can't get over it. I've had that number memorized ever since the card catalog went electronic. My lame middle school signature complete with the smiley faced dotted i is on that thing.  How could it be missing?

The positive in this situation is that without my library card, I can't keep checking out mountains of books and ignoring the books I own and haven't read yet. But there's a hole in my heart. And it's in the shape of my card.

What my heart literally looks like right now. Okay, not literally.

Oct 3, 2013

Reconstructing Amelia

I love a good mystery. When the pieces all fall into place, it is such a satisfying reading experience (I'm looking at you Casual Vacancy).

Well-written mysteries have pieces that fit like a puzzle. But you know when you're putting together a 500 piece puzzle and you convince yourself that two pieces absolutely go together, so you hammer them down like there's no tomorrow? Sometimes that's what Reconstructing Amelia feels like.

Let me back up.  Reconstructing Amelia follows Kate, a single mother/attorney, as she copes after her daughter Amelia's alleged suicide.  Unwilling to believe that her daughter killed herself, Kate sorts through her daughter's electronic life and enters a terrifying world of bullying, hazing, secret clubs, and possible school cover-ups.  The perspective alternates between past and present day Kate, past Amelia, and collections of texts, Facebook statuses, and e-mails.

For the most part, I really enjoyed the book. It takes on a hot button issue (cyberbullying), incorporates other prevalent young adult issues (LGBT, popularity, identity) and presents a thoughtful critique of our online world(s). The teen voices are not forced and the blame for their actions isn't placed entirely on their shoulders. However, in what appears to be an attempt to create a lot of "gasp" worthy moments, some of the revelations read as if they're too hammered into place to fit.

But all in all, it's a satisfying read. If you're okay with overlooking a more farfetched conclusion and enjoy mysteries, I would pick up this book, preferably before the Nicole Kidman movie version premieres. Due to the subject matter, teens may find this an interesting reads, provided they're mature enough to handle the heavy amount of profanity, sexual scenes, and talk of cutting.