Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Something Wicked This Way Comes is the story of two boys, James Nightshade and William Halloway, and how they save their town from the evil that arrives with the “dark carnival” one autumn midnight.

This book is considered one of Ray Bradbury’s more minor works but, in my opinion is one of his best, especially after rereading it as an adult. The combination of subject matter, theme, and metaphor-dripping language is what makes this book so great. For example:

“All the meannesses we harbor, they borrow in redoubled spades. They’re a billion times itchier for pain, sorrow, and sickness than the average man. We salt our lives with other people’s sins. Our flesh to us tastes sweet. But the carnival doesn’t care if it stinks by moonlight instead of sun, so long as it gorges on fear and pain. That’s the fuel, the vapor that spins the carousel, the raw stuffs of terror, the excruciating agony of guilt, the scream from real and imagined wounds.”

 The writing is poetic and if you are unsure of what is going on you can in return feel the language, tone and mood, the autumn season, the spookiness of the dark carnival, what it feels like to want to be older and younger at the same time, and so much more. If you happen to be a fan of stories that are propelled by language, modern classics, gothic literature, horror/thriller, or vaudeville/circuses of the dark variety, than you might enjoy this book.

Personal note on why I love this book: 
As a young adult librarian I cannot help but run everything through a YA filter. For that reason, I think this book is absolute perfection for A's and YA's alike. As a recent professional librarian (1 year in March), and one about to hit their 30 year mark, I completely understand the crux of wanting the experience of professional and personal accomplishment, while tandemly wanting the carefree days of my youth. The idea of reliving one's youth with the knowledge and experience of age is somewhat trite and something you will hear often quoted by older individuals. You also hear a lot of, "What I wouldn't do to be 30 again", etc. It's a basic conundrum of the human condition admitted - but still applicable and true. That emotional draw is universal.

As far as writing is concerned, you cannot find a better example than in this novel. The language is excruciatingly rich and puts most "creative writers" to shame, myself included. My god, if I were to ever have my writing ventures compared to Bradbury's it would be the most mediocre and affected example one could formulate.  Anyhow, if one is trying to teach the difference between mood and tone, analogy and metaphor, and just how to be an effective writer sans wordiness, this would be the ideal example.

I don't care about well-writteness, I care about feeling the words and making a connection, and not feeling so damn alone in one's existential contingency. Those are a few of the reasons why this work is so near and dear to my heart and, why I hold Something Wicked This Way Comes as a pseudo litmus test when comparing other great works. Please, read, devour this text. It could possibly be the most beautiful thing you have ever read.  

Need more to read? You might also want to try The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, or Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Listmania: My Top 4 YA books read in 2012


Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
About: Sixteen-year-old Min Green writes a letter to Ed Slaterton in which she breaks up with him, documenting their relationship and how items in the accompanying box, from bottle caps to a cookbook, foretell the end.
Why I Recommend It: I felt like Min was walking around in my head. From Min's cinephilia, quirky view of the world, to her romantic troubs. Recommended listening since Hawk Davies is fictional: Michael Hurley & Ted Hawkins.

Every day by David Levithan
About: Every morning A wakes in a different person's body, in a different person's life, learning over the years to never get too attached, until he wakes up in the body of Justin and falls in love with Justin's girlfriend, Rhiannon.
Why I Recommend It: Levithan deserves the genius award for writing this book. With all the forseeable plot problems I didn't know how he was going to pull it off but, he does. Every day is masterfully written, inspiring, and caused me to cry a million tears.

Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby
About: Portia Remini, a normal among the freaks, on the run from McGreavy's Home for Wayward Girls, where Mister watches and waits. He said he would always find Portia, that she could never leave. Free at last, Portia begins a new life with the traveling circus while she seeks answers concerning her father's disappearance.
Why I Recommend It: Portia is unique, charming, adventurous, and wildly imaginative. I kind of felt like I was reading an Olivia (the pig) book but, for a more mature audience.

The Diviners by Libba Bray
About: Seventeen-year-old Evie O'Neill is thrilled when she is exiled from small-town Ohio to New York City in 1926, even when a rash of occult-based murders thrusts Evie and her uncle, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult, into the thick of the investigation.
Why I Recommend It: If you enjoy giving yourself nightmares, The Diviners is the book for you. With the child sacrifices, demons threatening Armageddon, cult fanaticism, and roaring twenties cultural perspective well, I couldn't put this book down.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Wonder Show

Wonder Show

By. Hannah Barnaby

About: “…Except, that’s a lie. I lie all the time. When mother asks me if I’ve been near the elephants again, I lie. When Mosco accused me of being the one who switched Marie’s knives around, I lied then, too. (I didn’t really mean to switch the knives, though. I was just looking at them and then I guess I put them back wrong. It wasn’t really my fault—they all look the same.)” –page 236

Portia is a 13-year-old girl growing up in the Midwest during the depression. Her family of assumed gypsies has left her in the care of her Aunt Sophia who encourages her wild imagination and lets her stay up late reading pulp novels. When Aunt Sophia can no longer care for Portia she is sent to a home for wayward girls that is run by an evil man that goes by the name of “Mister”. After a tragic accident that kills Portia’s best friend, Portia runs off to join a touring vaudeville show. She travels with them in order to escape Mister, the guilt she holds for the death of her best friend, and to hopefully find her father who never misses a show.

Why I picked it up: I loved the cover’s illustrative qualities and I usually enjoy books that explore vaudeville culture.

Why I finished it: This book is well written, descriptive, and wildly creative. I found Portia to be a great role model for girls and I think this book would be of interest to a lot of different audiences. Also, the vaudeville characters of the novel are based on real people and their personal history is told in the back of the book. You will read this book, love it, and spend countless hours looking up the people that inspired the characters in the novel.

I’d give it to: Everyone, but especially girls that have a wild imagination and people that are interested in esoteric historical fiction

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

The Forest of Hands & Teeth

By. Carrie Ryan

About: A zombie plague has wiped out the majority of mankind. Therefore, the survivors must live in a gated community that lacks all conventions of modern society. The only thing separating the village from the undead or, “unconsecrated” zombies is a wire fence. Mary is a 15-year-old girl who lives in the village. She dreams of a life outside of its confines and longs to find the ocean and evidence of high rise building, which seem like nothing more than folklore her mother passed down to her before she joined the rankings of the unconsecrated. The village is shrouded in secrecy, it sticks to traditional values and lifestyles, is governed by an organization of women known as the Sisterhood and, is protected by a group of men called the Guardians. When a zombie girl that is stealthier and more blood thirsty than any other infiltrates the community only a handful of survivors are left alive. Mary and her pack of survivors must set out on their own in search of refuge, another village or, as Mary dreams, the ocean.

Why I picked it up: I was reading a lot of zombie lit in preparation for the upcoming ZombiePalooza at Harrington and it looked good.

Why I finished it: I could not put this book down! Or, when I did have to put it down to sleep I would have terrifying nightmares of zombies clawing at the fence. The main character Mary is selfish, complicate, and hangs on the hinges of being either highly relatable or insufferable. So, a real live girl! This is a must read

I’d give it to: I would give it to you or, any girl that loves a good horror read.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

No One Belongs Here More Than You

By: Miranda July

In this collection of short stories it is hard to tell what is fact, fiction, or memoir. I am under the impression that it is a bit of all of the above, with an extreme emphasis on the banal human condition, a whimsical approach to loneliness and wanting to belong, and sometimes the perverse-but with a child like twist. This book is creative, poignant, insightful, and chocked full of "a-ha!" and laugh out loud moments.

Why I picked it up: I was never much of a fan of Miranda July's film or performance art work. So, I read this book hoping to shut the door on her as a cliche fraud but was so wrong. 

Why I finished it: I was mesmerized by Miranda July's ability to combine the typical with the absurd, and make it uncomfortably humanistic yet relatable. I left this book searching out any and all creative writing exercises she ever pursued. Check this out as a teaser: Hands Off: My First Feminist Action

I’d give it to: Girls, ranging from teenage to mid thirties. Any girl that has at some time felt misunderstood or like an outsider must read this book.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Blink & Caution

By: Tim Wynne Jones

Blink is a 16-year-old boy that has left his home and is living on the streets. One morning when he is grabbing someone’s leftovers at a hotel he witnesses the kidnapping of a high profile CEO. The kidnappy shows no signs of struggle and leaves a wad of cash, his cell phone, and a photo of his daughter behind.
Caution is a 16 year old girl that is living with her boyfriend, a drug dealer named Merlin. Merlin is a “magician”, as well as the definition of a scumbag. Why does she put up with this treatment? Because she did something terrible, she killed her own brother and, for that, she takes on this horrible life as her penance.
After the witnessed kidnap Blink pockets the cash and cell phone and gives the kidnappy’s daughter a call to let her know her father is okay. That opens a whole new can of worms that gets Blink personally involved. Caution and Blink cross paths once she tries to leave her boyfriend and the two become a team of misfits on the run.

Why I picked it up: It was recommended to me. Also, I wanted to flex my palette and read something out of the ordinary. I realized I was getting in to a bit of a dystopian and horror rut so, I wanted to shift gears.

Why I finished it: I was so captivated by Caution’s side of the story and wanted to know how she was going to get out of her situation. I needed to know the gory details of the murder she committed which she talks about. This book will keep you in the edge of your seat! Also, I loved how the first part of the book tells Blink’s story, the second tells Caution’s, and then their chance meeting catches you up to the present scenario.

I’d give it to: This book is smart, well written, and can be enjoyed by a variety of audiences. It is also a great book for both male and female audiences. So, I would give it to older young adults that enjoy suspenseful thrillers.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Boy Who Couldn't Die

The Boy Who Couldn't Die

Bibliographic Information:

Sleator, W. (2004). The Boy Who Couldn't Die. New York: Amulet Books. ISBN: 0810948249.


"Those are private voodoo ceremonies, run by houngans. Houngans are voodoo priests who don't practice black magic. When they beat those drums, some people get possessed by spirits-I've seen it"
page 57

"But now, he's moving in slow motion compared to me. He doesn't get a chance to turn around. Against my will, I slash his throat with a knife. Blood spurts out, splashing my face, my clothes. He makes a gurgling noise and says something garbled that might be, "A cave under the far side of the island." He crumbles to the ground." -page 73

Plot Summary:

16-year-old Ken's best friend dies in a plane crash. In order to deal with his loss he decides to see a witch doctor about making him invincible against death in exchange for 50 dollars. In return, he becomes a living zombie that losses his free will and must carry out the heinous crimes of the witch doctor's request.

Critical Analysis:

The Boy That Couldn't Die is fast paced, gripping, engaging, and most recommended for an enjoyable, quick read! Ken is somewhat of a dislikable character: he's rich, cocky, takes things for granted, and thinks everything has a price tag. Those are facts that do not particularly change as Ken goes through various trials to test hs lack of vulnerability, and then to finally cure his zombie fate.

This is a book that I would recommend for older juveniles and teens, or anyone for that matter that has a penchant for fast paced YA lit that specializes in the macabre and has a few hours to spare.

A lot of aspects of this book follow an archetypal YA lit formula. For example, Ken seems to have no parental or monetary bondaries, Also, he gets him self into life threatening problems just as easily as he gets himself out of them and, even though he makes ample mistakes that throw him into the face of danger, he just as easily gets himself out of them. But, that is what makes this book so great. It's like YA crack. This book lacks substance, most likely will not be included in the YA canon of pivotal literature but, I couldn't put it down.


"After his best friend dies in a plane crash, 16-year-old Ken Pritchard keeps thinking of a folktale about a monster that hid his soul, ensuring eternal life. Determined to avoid death himself, Ken finds a woman who removes his soul from his body. At first he is pleased; as in the folktale, he gains physical invulnerability, along with a respite from his misery. But, as readers will suspect from the many creepy details Ken willfully ignores, the rest of the folktale comes true as well. The woman is a zombie master, and he has become a modern-day monster partially under her control. Ken's increasingly desperate first-person narration, as he struggles to find his hidden soul and escape the zombie master's ever more brutal commands, makes for a gripping read. Particularly well rendered are the scuba-diving scenes in the shark-infested waters of the Caribbean and under the thick ice on a wintry Adirondack lake. Sleator spends little time on the spiritual or emotional consequences of Ken's transformation, and characterization is secondary to plot development, but teenaged horror fans won't mind. From the photo of a just-unearthed skull on its cover to the plot twist in its final pages, this fast-paced, suspenseful book will appeal to reluctant and avid readers alike." -School Library Journal

"William Sleator is one of my favorite young adult writers." -R.L. Stine