Archive of ‘Book Reviews’ category

Great Comedian = Funny Book

51K8qhCXQ3L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I just finished reading Jim Gaffigan’s Food: A Love Story. While I think his previous book Dad is Fat is better, I really enjoyed this book as well. Perhaps I liked Dad is Fat better because I listened to it on audible.com, and Jim Gaffigan read it himself. There’s something awesome about the author reading his/her own book. For examples, listen to Amy Poehler’s Yes Please or Cary Ewles’s As You Wish. Back to Food: A Love Story. I can completely understand so many points Gaffigan makes in his book because I too am an “eatie” though not a “foodie.”

If you’re not a fan of Jim Gaffigan or haven’t even heard of him, I feel sorry for you. No, that’s not what I meant. I mean I would recommend his comedy. He’s known as a clean comedian, but I don’t think this is necessarily intentional. He just likes to talk about a broader range than just sex, and he doesn’t have to use curse words to get his point across. I’m not against the dirtier comedians; I just find Gaffigan hilarious to the point where I can’t listen to him and drive at the same time. There’s a reason why he’s known as the “Hot Pocket Guy.”

If you are a fan of Gaffigan, prepare to have some of his jokes heard in his stand-up rehashed (now I want hashbrowns 😉 ) in Food: A Love Story. Like the McDonald’s jokes shown below, he includes much of his stand-up material. However, he expands upon a lot of it and includes quite a lot of new material as well. Despite using some of his older stuff, I found myself laughing to these tried-and-true jokes and filled with LOLz at his new jokes.

So would I recommend this book? Yes! If you’re in the mood to laugh, it’s a great read. Maybe listen to the audio book as Gaffigan reads it himself. Oh, and don’t read/listen on an empty stomach!

“The moment you enter most Waffle Houses, you get the sense the staff stopped caring a long time ago or never did. You’ll never hear ‘Nice job cleaning up’ in a Waffle House. If you’ve never had the chance to visit a Waffle House, simply imagine a gas station bathroom that serves waffle. That sums up the atmosphere pretty well.”

“I certainly don’t mean to offend. I understand that religion jokes make some people uncomfortable. Especially the people who are going to hell. It is my belief that God has a great sense of humor. How else would you explain the appearance of the duck-billed platypus or the manatee?”

Not Delirious about the Delirium Series

middle_3171ab2aee2fe2643167100e796759512e_eih_delirium_er_banner_01I just finished the Delirium Series by Lauren Oliver. I’m sad to say that I’m not in love. I was entertained, and I respect the work Oliver did as I respect any writer’s work whether I like it or not. Writing is difficult! Unfortunately, I dreaded having to read the next two books in the series Pandemonium and Requiem after listening to the first book Delirium on audible.com.

Here’s the synopsis of Delirium via amazon.com:

In an alternate United States, love has been declared a dangerous disease, and the government forces everyone who reaches eighteen to have a procedure called the Cure. Living with her aunt, uncle, and cousins in Portland, Maine, Lena Haloway is very much looking forward to being cured and living a safe, predictable life. She watched love destroy her mother and isn’t about to make the same mistakes.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena meets enigmatic Alex, a boy from the Wilds who lives under the government’s radar. What will happen if they do the unthinkable and fall in love?

Based on this synopsis, I knew I was getting into what could be a sappy young adult love story, clichéd and unrealistic. The sale price of $4.99 for the Audible book, though, was one I couldn’t pass up even if the reader of the book was a bit annoying in my opinion. (Just a side note: if you drive a lot or even work a lot in the home, audible books are a great way to “read” a book while doing other things that don’t take up a lot of thought, i.e. driving the same route every day, cleaning the house, cooking dinner.) I wasn’t let down about my assumptions for a sappy, unrealistic, clichéd love story. However, it fit with the world around them.

The best thing about this book, and about most dystopian novels, is the world building that the author does. Oliver created this future world where love is considered a disease, and it was believable. Emotions are considered a negative, oftentimes illegal, thing. (The Giver, anyone?) How the people deal with this “fact” and respond to the teachings seemed realistic. You have those that will follow whatever they are taught. Indeed, most people will just believe what they are taught and will not question it because they haven’t been taught to think for themselves. You also have the people who rebel against the idea and the Cure for various reasons, most including experiences with love and other gushy emotions. Out of those people who are against the system for whatever reason, you have different factions. Some want to rebel against the system with as little loss as possible. Others want total anarchy and destruction. Others simply want to be left alone to live in the Wilds or in the deserted subway tunnels. And with all these people, Oliver does not overwhelm the reader as she introduces them. She seamlessly shows you the world without telling you about it, a skill all authors should strive for, and one that can be seen in The Hunger Games trilogy, the City of Bones series, and even The Selection series.

09a267748c64ff8f1379708316230c58I also loved a specific aspect of Oliver’s world-building. The people have a handbook called The Book of Shhh that shows the perils of “Amor Deliria Nervosa,” or falling in love. In it are various stories and “facts” that scare people about this deliria and propagates the necessity of the Cure. As with any propaganda, The Book of Shhh takes past stories and rewrites them for the purposes of eliminating love and emotions. My favorites include Biblical stories that are totally rewritten. For instance, in the “Story of Solomon” in The Book of Shhh two women claimed to be the mother of a baby. When neither would back down from this claim, King Solomon said the only fair thing to do was to cleave the baby in half so that both women could have at least half of the child. Because both women had the deliria, they agreed to let the baby be split in half and so it was. However, the true Bible does not tell this tale the same. The story was that one woman gave up her claim on the baby so that he was not cut in half. Solomon, seeing her sacrifice for the good of the baby, gave the child to that woman, rather than the woman who would not back down even when the baby’s life is threatened. This story is originally about sacrifice and love, though this just wouldn’t do for The Book of Shhh. Oliver delivers other such stories throughout the books, and I love this part of her world building along with the references to other stories, books, and poems.

Although I enjoyed the world building of Oliver, I thought the book was quite slow. It was an interesting premise, but the slow pace of the novel made it difficult to pay attention and to become enthralled with the plot. As I said earlier, I wasn’t looking forward to reading the other two novels in this trilogy after reading the first book. However, the second and third books were superior to the first. In the second book Pandemonium each chapter alternates between Lena right after the events of the first book and Lena working for the Resistance in a new city in the future. The simultaneous stories were interesting and helped break up the pace. One story may be a bit stagnant at parts, but the other story would be filled with action. The fact that Oliver could so seamlessly write both stories at once shows her prowess in writing.

The third book Requiem did a similar thing. Each chapter alternates between Lena after the events in Pandemonium and Hana, Lena’s best friend who she left behind, also in the present. The two different viewpoints and stories again made this book much more interesting than Delirium. I’m surprised by how much I did like the second and third books, as usually I consider the first book the best in most series.

I also hate to say but I didn’t really care for Lena or her love interest Alex. Lena was a boring character. As with many YA books, the main character was made to fit for every reader. She was plain with a flat personality so that young readers can see themselves in her and imprint their own personalities on her. However, Oliver went too far and made her too boring. Yes, she does change and grow stronger throughout the novels, but we start from nothing to work our way up. Plus, her moodiness and the love triangle that comes later is frustrating.

Alex was also boring to me and completely unbelievable. He fell for Lena while watching her run and seeing her joy when high-fiving a statue. Really? You just fell for her without even getting to know her? And when he does get to know her, her views are so saturated by the society and different from his that the love that blooms between them can only be, in my way of thinking, a physical one. Later, she follows and believes him with that doe-eyed trust that shows she’s not actually thinking for herself but just going along with Alex because of hormones. Ugh. Have I mentioned I don’t like the first book? The love is, as most young adult love is, vapid. It is not the strong love on which marriages are built; it is a quick and surface love on which teenage drama is built.

Would I recommend this book trilogy? Yep, especially if you don’t have anything else you want to read. If you’re craving more dystopian YA fiction, this will whet your appetite. Don’t expect a phenomenal storyline or an absence of clichés, but hopefully the artful world building and interesting ways Oliver presents the story will make up for those.

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I found this on the internet and have to agree with many of these recommendations. I’ve read most of these and would encourage you to read on! :)

 

Happy I Selected The Selection Series

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I’ve been in a young adult literature mood, so I decided to check out The Selection series from my library. The Selection series features America Singer, the protagonist, who is selected along with thirty-four other girls to go to the palace and try to win the heart of Prince Maxon Shreave and the crown of Illea, the country which now inhabits all of North America and parts of Central America. America, being stubborn in that oh-so-prominent YA literature way, does not want Maxon or the crown. However, she’s encouraged to go try out both by her family and by her boyfriend Aspen. The Selection series follows her journey in and out of love with Aspen and Maxon (love triangle trope, anyone?) and the process through which all the young women compete for love and the crown. Throw in the fact that there are now castes in this dystopian future and that America is from one of the lower ones, and sparks fly between not only competing girls but also with the stereotypes they all live with through their born-into castes.

These books are easy to read because of the reading level with a young adult book and go by quickly. The plot keeps moving so that one has a difficult time of putting the books down. These are typical YA fiction novels with the ever-present love triangle, the protagonist who stubbornly stands out among the rest, and a dystopian world. However, they’re not boring as one would think they would be with all of these YA literature clichés sprinkled throughout. The author Kiera Cass does a great job creating and building what could be a completely ridiculous premise for a book.

At first I wasn’t sure how I would like these books, which is why I hadn’t read them yet, but I’m glad I read them. I was afraid the girls would be portrayed as damsels in want of a husband, and while this is present, Cass does a great job of showing how this contest tears apart the girls as well and how they begin to build friendships amongst themselves rather than simply fighting all the time. Yes, there are definite female tropes throughout the book, such as the “Bitch Trope,” the “Rich Bitch Trope,” and the “Gold Digger Trope.” However, even some of these characters show themselves to be individuals rather than just the trope that they are. Not all of the girls do this obviously since there are thirty-five personalities to write to begin with, but Cass does a good job of making some of the girls actually feel like real people.

Initially I had problems with the idea of thirty-five girls competing for the love of one man. It was a bit too The Bachelor for me, and I expected there to be a rose ceremony. However, there are other things that happen in the plot to show that these girls aren’t all vapid females trying to catch a male and are capable of strength in tough situations. America especially shows that she is more than just a woman searching for a man as she weighs the idea of becoming a queen and whether she truly wants that responsibility. That does get frustrating, though, because of all the flip-flopping on her part. Does she want Maxon or Aspen? Does she want her old life back or the life at the palace? Does she want the responsibility of the queen or simply the responsibility of her old life? This uncertainty is common in a lot of YA fiction with female protagonists and can actually lead the reader to dislike the protagonist instead of root for her. In this series, however, I did root for America and her relationship with Maxon. She was annoying at times, but honestly, what teenager isn’t once in a while?

If you’re looking for an easy read for entertainment and will be OK with all the tropes and clichés found in YA fiction, this is a good read. The plot intensifies throughout the series, and in my opinion, the last published book The One is actually the strongest book in the series. It was worth my time, and I did enjoy the series.

Still Alice Stilled My Heart

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The third book in my two-person book/movie club is Lisa Genova’s Still Alice. This was a quick read and could easily be read in one day. However, it was difficult for me to get through in one sitting because of the subject – Alzheimer’s Disease. Alice, the main character, is a Harvard psychology professor with a husband, who also teaches at Harvard, and three kids. She finds out that at 50 years old she has early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease (EOAD). The book catalogs this character’s journey with EOAD. The book is informative and analytical about EOAD and written by an author who has clearly done her homework. While being both informative and analytical, Genova also weaves in an emotional thread. Her work is an eloquent, sensitive look into a devastating disease.

Although I love this book and the way Genova treats the protagonist and the subject, I had a difficult time reading it. I cried sporadically throughout the entire book and embarrassed myself reading it at a coffee shop (no one likes a public crier even if she is pregnant). I know I’m more emotional right now simply because of my pregnancy hormones, but I’m positive I would have had an emotional response to this book anyway. My grandfather had Alzheimer’s, and watching such a strong, loving man lose his cherished memories and abilities to do the simplest things was difficult to say the least. It got to the point where it was impossible for me to even go visit him, and although I did what was right for me at the time and I know he wouldn’t have known me, I regret not visiting him more. This book brought up those feelings all over again. Also, the struggle of knowing that AD is a hereditary disease is not easy. Both my mom and I have expressed concern over this fact. It didn’t help that one of the women with EOAD was named the same as my mother. It also doesn’t help that as I’m experiencing “pregnancy brain” I am forgetting simple words and tasks and am completely unaware of my surroundings at time. These are also characteristics of AD, and although I know I am simply pregnant not suffering from EOAD, I felt empathy towards Alice.

Alzheimer’s is a silent disease that progresses in a death march, slowly taking away bits and pieces of what and who one is. It is a disease that makes people uncomfortable being around people with it, as one repeats information and slowly forgets the people one loved. There is no known cure, although some medication may help slow down the symptoms. However, it doesn’t always help, and even if it does, it just slows the death march and doesn’t eliminate it. Alice thought the following:

“She wished she had cancer instead. She’d trade Alzheimer’s for cancer in a heartbeat. She felt ashamed for wishing this, and it was certainly a pointless bargaining, but she permitted the fantasy anyway. With cancer, she’d have something that she could fight. There was surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. There was the chance that she could win. Her family and the community at Harvard would rally behind her battle and consider it noble. And even if defeated in the end, she’d be able to look them knowingly in the eye and say good-bye before she left.” Pg. 117

How bad must living with AD be for one to wish for cancer instead? Although I know Alice is a fictional character, Alzherimer’s is not a fictional disease, so the book truly touched my heart. Genova, in turn, touched my heart with her sensitivity towards the subject matter and the naked truth of living with it.

My friend and I saw the movie this past weekend, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well the adaptation from the book was done. Of course some things were changed, like where Alice taught, but most of these changes were presumably either necessary because of a lack of permission to shoot on campus or for time restraints. The key parts of the book were included, like her thinking that she would rather have cancer, and the actors were well cast for this book adaptation. It’s not a movie that I would own, but it was worth a watch particularly after reading the book. I didn’t cry as much during the movie as I did with the book, but perhaps this was because I knew what was coming and/or how it’s easier for me to empathize with a character from a book than a movie. There’s just some kind of familiarity with actually reading the book.

If you’re looking for a moving, fictional book on a very real disease with strong characters and family dynamics, I highly recommend Still Alice. Don’t have time to read the book? Then watch the movie. You’ll still come away with the gist of the book.

My New Author Crush: Joe Hill

I don’t like the genre of horror. I said this before in my post on Horns. …Or maybe I do. Joe Hill, have you changed my taste in literature? Just when I thought I knew what I liked.

Let me backtrack. I read Joe Hill’s second published novel Horns at the beginning of this year because I wanted to watch the movie and refused to watch it without reading the book first. Plus, my good friend was also reading it. Score! Someone to talk to about the book almost always persuades me to read something. I loved Horns! It was so clever and deep and masterfully constructed. This was my first encounter with Joe Hill, and I couldn’t wait to read his other published novels, Heart-Shaped Box and NOS4A2.

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I just finished reading Heart-Shaped Box, his first published novel, and thoroughly enjoyed this gripping ghost story. It gave me chills with its subtleties. It kept me rooting for the protagonist. It was a grown-up ghost story that focused on the nuances of human relationships rather than solely the macabre. While I did see the big reveal coming, I was still engrossed with the novel. I would definitely recommend this book if you’re looking for a good ghost story that may make you turn on just another light at night and wonder what your dog is staring at. Seriously, Bella, why do you keep looking at that one spot? There’s nothing there. Stop freaking me out!

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After you read this, I would also recommend searching images for it. There’s some great fan art for this book.

I finished NOS4A2, Hill’s third published novel and biggest book clocking in at 686 pages, at the beginning of last week, and it was worth every page. I was impressed with how seamlessly Hill blended the fantastic with the mundane in a way that made it believable. The baddies in the book were truly horrific, but you could see how they thought they were actually doing something good (a fact for so many “bad guys”). Perhaps their belief that they were actually being altruistic was the thing that creeped me out the most. The protagonist was flawed wretchedly, and yet I still found myself cheering her on, hoping she would find what she needed. Every page contributed to the plot, and even though I did whine about having to read so much (I still had four library books waiting for me to read them at that point), I could not tell you what should have been cut. As twisted and gruesome as the world of NOS4A2 was, I actually enjoyed living there for a while. I immersed myself in that book, and I was glad to still have another Joe Hill novel to read after completing it.

So yeah, I guess I like horror now. Or at least Joe Hill’s horror. I would highly recommend both of these books, along with Horns, and while I haven’t read it yet, Hill’s collection of short stories entitled 20th Century Ghosts is probably worth a gander as well. Enjoy and maybe turn on an extra light…

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Gone Girl is Now Gone From My Shelf

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WARNING: There be spoilers ahead! If you plan to read this book or even watch the movie, do not read this post. I will spoil the plot for you. All is fair in love and blogging!

The next book in my two-person book club that we read is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. This was my first experience reading any of Flynn’s work, and I’m not sure if I’ll read more. Gone Girl was entertaining, and I couldn’t put it down. The writing was intelligent, and I loved that she wrote from both characters’ points of view. However, something was bothering me – really bothering me – and I couldn’t put my finger on it. Sure, I didn’t like the ending, but that’s not a new occurrence for me as a reader. Why then did I dislike a well-written, page-turner of a book?

It wasn’t until my friend and I watched the movie and I pondered what I had seen that it hit me. I didn’t like the book because it was well-written and kept me on the edge of my seat, and after thinking about the negative message of this book, I hated that I was so into it initially. Let me explain. Amy Dunne, the “gone” girl in the book, disappears, and her husband Nick takes the fall for her disappearance. Every circumstantial clue points to him killing her. There is no body, but cases have been built on less. And in the state where the story unfolds, Missouri, they have the death penalty. Nick isn’t looking at just prison time; he’s looking at a death sentence. But you want to know the really weird thing? The thing that I feel was in the subconscious as I read Amy’s journal entries? Amy isn’t dead. In fact, she’s planned the entire disappearance and framing of Nick. She’s been planning it for two years and has meticulously planned every last detail down to the woodshed. Why would a wife do this to her husband? Because she was a woman scorned, of course. She found out Nick was cheating on her with a much-younger woman. So that justifies all this, right?

Hell no.

Adultery is horrible, and as many of us have experienced, it’s not an easy thing to get over. However, this doesn’t constitute framing your husband (or lover or boyfriend) and essentially murdering him through the death penalty. One does not call for the other. Every scorned woman may have had revenge fantasies, but few of us think of following these through. Unless you’re a psychopath like Amy Dunne. Throughout the book, we see her breaking the law through lying about the actions of past boyfriends, we see her constantly lying and deceiving to pull of this coup against Nick, we see that she has little regard for the safety of others (Desi, anyone?), and we see that she has no remorse or guilt for what she has done. Looking back, I do appreciate Flynn’s portrayal of the psychopath. She wrote the character of Amy beautifully from a psychology point of view.

OK, so the story doesn’t sound that bad. I mean, who doesn’t like a good revenge story? I do, but I like them when the vengeance is warranted and when the protagonist gets revenge for the correct reason. Amy only gets revenge through lying. She manipulates and fakes evidence. She makes up an elaborate ruse about how physically abusive Nick was that she was actually fearful for her life and had to buy a gun. Later in the story to escape, or really more like rid herself of another male, she fakes rape. Flynn writes, “I took a wine bottle, and I abused myself with it every day, so the inside of my vagina looked…right. Right for a rape victim. Then today I let him have sex with me so I had his semen…” This isn’t the first time I’ve read a book about a woman who lies to get her way, but this one upset me more than any other.

Why? Because in our society, many people do not take rape seriously. Many think that a lot of women make up their sexual assault for the attention or to belong to the “club.” Women are the victims, yet they are all too often silenced because of the 2% of women who do lie about their sexual assault. Add to that the lack of enforceable laws concerning domestic violence and restraining orders. Too often it’s a “he said she said” situation, and historically the men have the voice. Amy’s lies throughout the book perpetuate this idea that women are conniving and men are the victims of this manipulation. Her vindictiveness and jealously give her reason to lie, and even her older age compared to Nick’s mistress can be cited as a reason for these untruths and need to seek vengeance against Nick. All of these reasons for lying have now become cliche. How often do we see that? Women are labeled as hysterical and not trustworthy. In a culture that already paints women in such a bad light, why perpetuate this myth?

So, yes. It does anger me that the book is so well-written and a page turner. It angers me that Flynn created the character of Amy so well. It angers me that my initial response to this book was one of enjoyment rather than outrage. I’m even frustrated at myself that I didn’t realize why the book was niggling at my subconscious until I watched the movie. I despise that it spreads the fallacy of women lying about their rape/abuse and that men are the true victims (and even that affairs are not really that big of a deal in the long run).

Yes, Flynn is free to write what she wants, and I’m interested in her other books and what those deal with. Perhaps Amy’s lying really isn’t that big of a deal solely because she is a psychopath; however, it still bothers me. She is a talented writer, and if looking for a book to enjoy but not really delve into the societal problems with the crux of the story as a whole, this is the book for you. The movie was a great adaptation of the book, following the main plot lines perfectly. What else would one expect from director David Finch? I hate to give praise, but praise is due for the sheer craft of the director and writer.

 

A Pointed Assessment: Reviewing Horns

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My friend and I have recently started a two-person book club that includes only books that have been adapted to the big screen as well. We read the book first and then watch the movie together, discussing both afterwards. Our first book in this club was Joe Hill’s Horns. This was my introduction to Joe Hill (his real name is Joseph Hillstrom King), a brilliant author in his own right but also the son of Stephen King, and I was not disappointed. I’m not a big horror genre fan. Sure, I like the occasional movie like You’re Next or The Cabin in the Woods, but I do not like to read horror books. I’m thinking this has more to do with the fact that movies are usually two hours or less while books take considerably more time to read. I can be in and out of whatever horrific storyline is within a movie, while I feel as if I’m living it with a book. I also tend to cry more when reading than when watching movies. There’s something about the connection with a book as opposed to a movie. But I digress. Perhaps the fact that Horns is contained within the horror category yet is also a crime story and a romance story helped dull my pain of the horror genre.

We originally picked out this book because of the movie. The movie stars Daniel Radcliffe and is a definite break from anything Harry Potter. (For another great Radcliffe movie, watch What If.) Because we wanted to watch the movie, we decided to read the book first. I’m so glad we did. The book Horns is an awesome book. It’s about a guy named Ignatius (Iggy or Ig) who is suspected of his girlfriend Merrin’s murder from a year ago. Because of lack of physical evidence, he has not been convicted yet. He wakes up one morning with a pair of devil-like horns protruding from his forehead. He finds that people can see the horns but cannot remember that he has them once they look away. Instead of acting afraid or perplexed by the horns, everyone he comes in contact with begins to reveal their darkest desires and thoughts. These desires become movie-quality when he has skin-to-skin contact with a person. After revealing their secrets and desires, people ask Ig for his permission to act on these, giving him the power to manipulate people if he so chooses. From this premise, the story takes some interesting turns. There is even the past love story between his departed girlfriend and himself that feels genuine and true but is intertwined with the here and now of Ig’s horrific existence.

The thing that makes this story great besides the intelligent plot and writing and the unique story is that this book delves into the question of morality. What would you do if you had the power to know people’s darkest secrets? What would you do if you could manipulate people to act on these? Would anyone have the strength to not use this new-found talent? Would this be a gift or a curse? Are humans innately good or evil? Is the pull of the devil stronger than the pull of God? So many different topics are brought up seamlessly in this book, and while you can just enjoy the story, you can also ponder the depth of the story. Again, such a good book!

“Maybe all the schemes of the devil were nothing compared to what men could think up.”

The movie, however, left much to be desired. The casting was all wrong except for Ig and Merrin. They switched the physical attributes of Lee and Terry (like the characters of Murphy and Susan in the TV series The Dresden Files based off of Jim Butcher’s series). I hate when this happens because there is then more of a disconnect between what I envisioned in my head while reading and what I then see in the movie or TV show. The tone of the movie doesn’t fit with the book, and the director Alexandre Aja appeared to be more interested in spectacle rather than translating the meaning and nuances contained within the book. The ending is also completely different than the book and misses the mark. Perhaps the movie would have been more appealing had I never read the book. It’s a bit of an either/or situation, not a both situation. The only redeeming quality of this movie is Radcliffe’s stellar performance that shows he is much more than a boy with a lightning scar. However, the director didn’t seem to really appreciate Radcliffe’s talents to the detriment of the movie.

So what do I recommend? The book of course. I would say 9 times out of 10 the book will always be better, and Horns is definitely no exception. It’s worth a read, but don’t expect miracles while watching the movie. 😉 Now I’m off to read Heart-Shaped Box and NOS4A2 by Joe Hill.

“’Only the devil loves humans for what they are and rejoices in their cunning schemes against themselves, their shameless curiosity, their lack of self-control, their impulse to break a rule as soon as they hear tell of it, their willingness to forsake their immortal soul for nookie. The devil knows that only those with the courage to risk their soul for love are entitled to have a soul, even if God does not.’”

“Him and God are supposed to be at war with each other. But if God hates sin and Satan punishes the sinners, aren’t they working the same side of the street? Aren’t the judge and the executioner on the same team?”

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A Rose by Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet

You know that feeling when you’ve read all by a favorite author, and you’re craving more? I’m that way about many authors, but lately I’ve been craving more books by Barbara O’Neal. Her books, like Sarah Addison Allen’s books, are great reads when one needs to heal. When I’m down and need to see the good in the world, I turn to these books. O’Neal writes about deep issues that can bring a tear to my eye (OK, sometimes I sob), but she manages to still give the book a lighthearted feeling. She also offers closure at the end of each book, and although I sometimes find that an open-ended book is necessary and even better than closure, I appreciate closure at times as well. I previously wrote a post on O’Neal and how I re-read all of her books last fall. Recently, I’ve needed more, though. She’s just not churning them out fast enough.

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That’s when I discovered Barbara Samuel. Samuel and O’Neal are one in the same! (Readers, if you ever find out that Jim Butcher is also writing under another name, you must share. I have a major crush on his writer brain. Ugh, now I sound like a fangirl zombie.) I happened upon this tidbit of information when I was using my Google-Fu, and lo and behold there are a whole lot of books for me to read now. Unfortunately, Samuel is more of a romance novelist than O’Neal is, and I’ve never been much of a romance fan. Yes, I like romance within my books. All you need is love, right? However, when that’s the sole premise of the books and it’s full of throbbing members (that’s what she said), I tend to lose interest quicker than a virgin having sex.

However, there are some noteworthy books by Samuel in the same vein as O’Neal’s The Secret of Everything, The Lost Recipe for Happiness, The Garden of Happy Endings (not solely a romance novel, I swear!), How to Bake a Perfect Life, and The All You Can Dream Buffet. If you liked any or all of these, check out Barbara Samuel’s A Piece of Heaven, No Place Like Home, Lady Luck’s Map of Vegas, The Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue, and The Scent of Hours (which may also be published under the name Madame Mirabou’s School of Love). All of these appear to have been republished under the name of Barbara O’Neal, but you should be able to find them under Barbara Samuel as well. I’ve only read two of these novels so far (No Place Like Home and A Piece of Heaven), but I’ve been pleased with the stories and have had my appetite for more Barbara O’Neal satiated for the time being. I also found that there’s a good chance these books are at the library, especially for the huge library system where I live, but like the O’Neal books, I may need to actually buy these so that I can re-read.

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Anyone out there have any other authors they know of that write under a different name as well? I know Anne Rice writes, or at least used to write, under the name of Anne Rampling and A. N. Roquelaure. I know there are others out there, and I was well aware of this before discovering the O’Neal and Samuel connection. However, my interest has been newly sparked in this practice. Now I’m off to read more!

The Library’s Siren Call

I have a confession to make, a confession no bibliophile should ever have. I have not been to the library in about three years until the past week. How is this possible for someone who reads on average eighty books a year? Easy. I love used book stores and e-books on my Kindle. There’s something about seeing the books on my shelves and being able to scroll through my Kindle. I love entering a used book store and being greeted by so many once-loved books, imagining the previous owner for each book I pick up. However, buying books is becoming a more costly passion than I need with a new baby coming, so I’ve turned my attention towards the local library.

Shower Invitation

A baby shower invitation made by my good friend Jaimi. She definitely knows me well, and this awesome invitation may have been the motivation for me going back to the library after so many years.

I signed up for a library card two weeks ago, but a wave of nausea hit me before I could check out any books. However, I finally checked out one of the many branches of my county library system last week and was pleasantly surprised. I was greeted by a friendly staff and an abundance of books (a much better selection than the branch closest to my house). I quickly found four books after perusing just three aisles. It was time to leave before I was enticed by more books. When I got back home, I cracked open my first library book (Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, which is an interesting take on the consequences of our rapidly evolving technology) in years and was hit by nostalgia hearing the crinkle of the plastic cover. Memories of story time in school libraries from years past hit me, and I remembered how no matter where I moved, I could find refuge at the local library. I even visited the library in Nebraska closest to my grandparents’ home every time my family would visit. It became a ritual between my grandmother and me.

As I quickly devoured the first book, I looked at my stack of four books. Finding this to be an insufficient number, I visited the library once more last Thursday although I had already visited it on Monday. I quickly found five more books and now have a list of books to check out after perusing their online catalog. Although they’re now missing the iconic library cards attached to their back covers, there’s still something special about library books and the library itself. Where else are you allowed to borrow something completely for free? Think about it. Everything has a price nowadays, and if you wanted to get technical you could argue that we pay for libraries through taxes. However, it’s this great service where you can check out books and even movies, and as long as you have them back by their due date, you don’t pay anything extra. If you’re paying for it already through taxes, why not take advantage of them? Not only do they offer books and movies but also free Wi-Fi, computer usage, and printer, fax and scanner access. One building that contains thousands of secret worlds bound within books. How could this not be a siren call?

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My stack of library books from the past two visits last week. On my second visit, I returned Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, so that book is not pictured here.

A New Look at an Old Favorite

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I love the movie The Princess Bride. I’ve loved it since I was little when my maternal grandpa first showed it to me after he had recorded it on VHS from the television. My brother and I devoured The Princess Bride every time we came to visit my maternal grandparents, much like we did Mrs. Doubtfire when visiting my paternal grandparents. To be honest, I had no idea the movie was based on a book until I met my husband (a fact that should have been apparent by the opening credits). Hans had read the book The Princess Bride by William Goldman in a college class entitled “Great Books,” and indeed it was a great book for Hans that turned into one of his favorite reads. Hans had encouraged me to read the book, and we even bought it after he couldn’t find his old college copy. However, the book sat on the bookshelf, collecting dust until recently. I got a deal on audible.com and have been listening to books read by the author. One of these books was As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes (and read by Elwes and other cast and crew members). I enjoyed listening to this book immensely and felt my old favorite had a whole new life. I wanted to keep this momentum going, so I picked up my copy of the book.

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The book was the movie and so much more. Goldman did a great job writing this book and then adapting it into a screenplay. All of my favorite bits and lines were in the book, and there were new things added to the story, again giving my old favorite new life. I couldn’t put it down and look forward to reading this to my children as I look forward to watching the movie with them. Some minor changes from the book to the movie were improvements, such as changing the sharks to shrieking eels. (A change I imagine had more to do with eels being less expensive to make than sharks.) However, I missed Goldman not including the Zoo of Death and rather changing it into the Pit of Despair. I imagine this change, too, had to do with expense with making a movie and with time restraints. The description of the Zoo of Death and then Inigo and Fezzik’s making their way through it were both favorite parts of the book for me. I also loved Goldman’s sly jokes, puns, and satire sprinkled throughout the book as they had been within the movie.

I’m not sure what else to say about the book and the movie The Princess Bride but that it is such a great read that I recommend for anyone looking for a fun book to break up the everyday monotony. If you love the movie and/or book as I do, I encourage you to read or listen to As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride. It will make you see the movie in a whole new light.

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