Tag: supernatural


Friday Fail: The Children’s Home

Posted 29 January, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Friday Fail: The Children’s HomeThe Children's Home by Charles Lambert
Published by Simon and Schuster on January 5th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Literary, Psychological, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 224
Goodreads
two-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

For fans of Shirley Jackson, Neil Gaiman, Roald Dahl, and Edward Gorey, a beguiling and disarming debut novel from an award-winning British author about a mysterious group of children who appear to a disfigured recluse and his country doctor—and the startling revelations their behavior evokes.In a sprawling estate, willfully secluded, lives Morgan Fletcher, the disfigured heir to a fortune of mysterious origins. Morgan spends his days in quiet study, avoiding his reflection in mirrors and the lake at the end of his garden. One day, two children, Moira and David, appear. Morgan takes them in, giving them free reign of the mansion he shares with his housekeeper Engel. Then more children begin to show up. Dr. Crane, the town physician and Morgan’s lone tether to the outside world, is as taken with the children as Morgan, and begins to spend more time in Morgan’s library. But the children behave strangely. They show a prescient understanding of Morgan’s past, and their bizarre discoveries in the mansion attics grow increasingly disturbing. Every day the children seem to disappear into the hidden rooms of the estate, and perhaps, into the hidden corners of Morgan’s mind. The Children’s Home is a genre-defying, utterly bewitching masterwork, an inversion of modern fairy tales like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Golden Compass, in which children visit faraway lands to accomplish elusive tasks. Lambert writes from the perspective of the visited, weaving elements of psychological suspense, Jamesian stream of consciousness, and neo-gothic horror, to reveal the inescapable effects of abandonment, isolation, and the grotesque—as well as the glimmers of goodness—buried deep within the soul.

My first mistake was falling prey to the horrifically classic, “…for fans of…” when will I learn that this is always a bad idea? I am completely unable to find the resemblance to Dahl, Gaiman, or Jackson — all three authors which I have read extensively.

This is another one of those books with a compelling premise and an excellent description that just fell on its face for me. I mean:

…a mysterious group of children who appear to a disfigured recluse and his country doctor, and the startling revelations their behavior evokes.

Sounds great right? I wanted it to be, I did… the writing isn’t awful, but it is unremarkable. The story itself fails to make much sense at all and the ending itself is unsatisfactory in the extreme. I’m okay with an ambivalent ending, in fact most times I find that type of ending more satisfying but here… I don’t know.

“Maybe I’m not smart enough to understand The Children’s Home” was the first thought that I had, but legions of reviewers on Goodreads assure me that this isn’t the case.

The good news, if you decide to read it, is that The Children’s Home is a fairly quick and compact read. I can’t really think who I would recommend this novel to, it just made too little sense for me to get a feel on who might like it.

Sorry I didn’t have more to say about The Children’s Home, Readers. I almost didn’t post this review for lack of things to say but felt like I got far enough that maybe this could be useful to someone. Anyone else read it? Thoughts? Feelings?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Library Love: Two Mini Reviews

Posted 12 August, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

mt charThe Library at Mount Char by: Scott Hawkins

Mini Synopsis: Carolyn and her adopted siblings are taken in by a seemingly immortal man who has taught them strange, ancient powers. Now Father has gone missing…

Thoughts and Feelings: I thought this book was tons of fun. There was a twist and turn around every corner. Of course being a serious reader anything with the word ‘library’ in the title or about ‘librarians’ is going to appeal to me. This isn’t an overly literary book, not a whole lot of deep themes for discussion or anything, but I have to say it’s an immensely readable book where it’s nearly impossible to figure out what comes next. Highly recommended.

Who’s Going to Like it? Science fiction/fantasy people are going to like it, the apocalyptic crowd might find parts of it appealing as well. People who stick completely with literary fiction… hard to say. 4.5/5

 

 

strange libraryThe Strange Library by: Haruki Murakami

Mini Synopsis: (Goodreads) A lonely boy, a mysterious girl, and a tormented sheep man plot their escape from the nightmarish library of internationally acclaimed, best-selling Haruki Murakami’s wild imagination.

Thoughts and Feelings: Well clearly I couldn’t write a synopsis better than that. This was my second Murakami after the epic 1Q84, it was so different! I loved this little barely novella. It had the feeling of a fairy tale in both style and substance. It was so delightful and charming while at the same time being creepy and weird. Fantastic!

Who’s Going to Like it? Hard core Murakami fans, obviously. Also anyone looking for a little bit of magical, creepy, weirdness. 5/5 stars

Of course our resident Murakami fangirl over at Lovely Bookshelf has a great review of The Strange Library.

 

Has anyone read either of these? Thoughts? Feelings? Read any good library themed books lately, Reader?

April

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Must Read Monday: The Beautiful Bureaucrat

Posted 10 August, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Must Read Monday: The Beautiful BureaucratThe Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips
Published by Henry Holt and Company on August 11th 2015
Genres: Fiction, General, Literary, Thrillers
Pages: 192
Goodreads
four-half-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

In a windowless building in a remote part of town, the newly employed Josephine inputs an endless string of numbers into something known only as The Database. After a long period of joblessness, she's not inclined to question her fortune, but as the days inch by and the files stack up, Josephine feels increasingly anxious in her surroundings-the office's scarred pinkish walls take on a living quality, the drone of keyboards echoes eerily down the long halls. When one evening her husband Joseph disappears and then returns, offering no explanation as to his whereabouts, her creeping unease shifts decidedly to dread.As other strange events build to a crescendo, the haunting truth about Josephine's work begins to take shape in her mind, even as something powerful is gathering its own form within her. She realizes that in order to save those she holds most dear, she must penetrate an institution whose tentacles seem to extend to every corner of the city and beyond.

I just finished this little tome and holy poop on a stick guys – it knocked my socks off. I feel like The Beautiful Bureaucrat has something for everyone. It’s full of intrigue, a dash of magical realism,  and a whole lot of excellent writing.

It felt a little bit like a grown-up Wrinkle in Time, though why exactly it felt that way — I can’t exactly put my finger on it. But I loved the slightly science fiction feel that didn’t necessarily go overboard and take The Beautiful Bureaucrat into the realm of genre fiction. Admittedly, the characters are a bit flat, but because of the slimness and the surreal feeling of the novel, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I love the wordplay within the novel, which screams of symbolism – perhaps Josephine’s descent into madness working her job. I love how she eventually started referring to her husband by his social security number. I love the Every Place feeling of The City vs. The Hinterlands.

Some reviewers found The Beautiful Bureaucrat to be somewhat Orwellian, I didn’t necessarily have that feeling — though there was definitely the sense that Josephine was being watched.

Anyway, I don’t want to oversell The Beautiful Bureaucrat, but I think that the length of the novel makes it accessible to everyone and to me it was completely delightful.

What do you think, Reader? Does this sound like something that might be up your alley? 

April

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Annihilation: A Tournament of Books Selection

Posted 13 February, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Annihilation: A Tournament of Books SelectionAnnihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
Published by Macmillan on February 4th 2014
Genres: Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian, Fantasy, Fiction, General, Literary, Science Fiction
Pages: 195
Goodreads
three-stars

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide, the third expedition in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition.     The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one anotioner, and, above all, avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.     They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything.

This is a great horror novel for people who don’t like horror novels. By that I mean that this novel is delightfully atmospheric without a lot of blood or killer clowns jumping out at you. Some readers may find the story to be a bit slow – but I thought that Vandermeer did a great job in creating a slow burn, but be warned Reader – this is the first of a trilogy (Southern Reach trilogy) and honestly that’s the downside. 

As a Tournament of Books selection – this doesn’t stand alone very well (the good news is that all three books in the trilogy were published in quick succession and therefore are all available). There is a slow building to a climax and then … more mystery. Which is fine – just go get the other two books (or have them on hand before you start). I liked the fact that the expedition was made up completely of women, which enabled Vandermeer to avoid the common sci-fi/horror trope of women being there solely for the men to rescue. 

The characters are interesting and compelling. What’s the biologist’s deal? What the hell is the psychologist’s problem?

Overall, this is an incredibly readable book, but it can’t be read as a standalone – there are just too many questions left open. Area X is described in detail so that the reader can almost feel it closing in around her. 

Added bonus, each book in the trilogy is also short enough (no more than 350 pages) that they can be read in just a few sittings so ideally a reader can get through the whole thing in about a week or so.

As far as The Tournament of Books goes – I don’t see this one lasting long because it simply can’t stand on its own.

Also, here’s a great tell all from Vandermeer in the Atlantic on his writing of The Southern Reach Trilogy. (Spoilers)

Finally, Michael at Literary Exploration has an excellent review on Annihilation here.

What about you, Reader? How do you feel about atmospheric novels? Read any good ones lately? 

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Friday Flowchart: Get your Stephen King on!

Posted 19 December, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in writers

If you’ve been around for any length of time you know I have a fairly serious… um, obsession? with Stephen King. I thought that it was time to go ahead and share my wealth of knowledge with those that are uninitiated or less initiated. So in the spirit of Book Riot’s Margaret Atwood Reading Pathway, I decided to make you, dear Reader, a flowchart.

Note: There are two stories (novellas, really) that I recommend in Different Seasons for those not wanting the night terrors, they are ‘Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption’ and ‘The Body’.

Edit: I noticed I don’t have fear ratings on Mr. Mercedes or Joyland… I think both of those are probably just a little spooky.

Enjoy!

Do you have favorite Stephen King books, Reader? I’ve left off a few of my favorites, but the chart was getting too complicated too quickly.

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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The Devil: A New Biography

Posted 11 December, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

The Devil: A New BiographyThe Devil by Philip C. Almond
Published by Cornell University Press on August 5th 2014
Genres: Angelology & Demonology, Christian Church, Christian Theology, Civilization, History, Judaism, Religion, Theology
Pages: 288
Goodreads
three-half-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

"Although the Devil still 'lives' in modern popular culture, for the past 250 years he has become marginal to the dominant concerns of Western intellectual thought. That life could not be thought or imagined without him, that he was a part of the everyday, continually present in nature and history, and active at the depths of our selves, has been all but forgotten. It is the aim of this work to bring modern readers to a deeper appreciation of how, from the early centuries of the Christian period through to the recent beginnings of the modern world, the human story could not be told and human life could not be lived apart from the ‘life’ of the Devil. With that comes the deeper recognition that, for the better part of the last two thousand years, the battle between good and evil in the hearts and minds of men and women was but the reflection of a cosmic battle between God and Satan, the divine and the diabolic, that was at the heart of history itself."—from The Devil Lucifer, Mephistopheles, Beelzebub; Ha-Satan or the Adversary; Iblis or Shaitan: no matter what name he travels under, the Devil has throughout the ages and across civilizations been a compelling and charismatic presence. In Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, the supposed reign of God has long been challenged by the fiery malice of his opponent, as contending forces of good and evil have between them weighed human souls in the balance. In The Devil, Philip C. Almond explores the figure of evil incarnate from the first centuries of the Christian era. Along the way, he describes the rise of demonology as an intellectual and theological pursuit, the persecution as witches of women believed to consort with the Devil and his minions, and the decline in the belief in Hell and in angels and demons as corporeal beings as a result of the Enlightenment. Almond shows that the Prince of Darkness remains an irresistible subject in history, religion, art, literature, and culture. Almond brilliantly locates the “life” of the Devil within the broader Christian story of which it is inextricably a part; the “demonic paradox” of the Devil as both God’s enforcer and his enemy is at the heart of Christianity. Woven throughout the account of the Christian history of the Devil is another complex and complicated history: that of the idea of the Devil in Western thought. Sorcery, witchcraft, possession, even melancholy, have all been laid at the Devil’s doorstep. Until the Enlightenment enforced a “disenchantment” with the old archetypes, even rational figures such as Thomas Aquinas were obsessed with the nature of the Devil and the specific characteristics of the orders of demons and angels. It was a significant moment both in the history of demonology and in theology when Benedict de Spinoza (1632–1677) denied the Devil’s existence; almost four hundred years later, popular fascination with the idea of the Devil has not yet dimmed.

Fascinating subject matter and quite festive for the season. Don’t you think? 

Anyway, a more apt name for the book might have been The Devil: A New History, but from a marketing perspective I definitely see why ‘biography’ would be more compelling. Regardless, although the book is only 270 pages it packs a lot of punch into a small space. It is an academic book published by an academic press, but I wouldn’t call it inaccessible, though it might make a good textbook for some esoteric liberal arts subject.

Indeed, while not quite inaccessible and not quite compelling, Almond’s book is definitely interesting and is well researched. I found particularly fascinating the differing Christian views on various aspects of demons and demonology, especially up through the middle ages. To me it reflected a deeper (and honestly, today more important) issue of how Biblical canon was developed. What the church ended up accepting about demonology, the devil, and witches by the end of the Salem Witch trials (which is sadly, where the history in this book ends) was a result of differing schools of thought within the church, the accepted views eventually to be remembered (and then forgotten) while the other views fade back into the miasma of superstition and scholarly works. (For my point on Biblical canon see: apocryphal gospels.)

Recommended for people interested in a non-fiction look at the development of the devil, demonology, and witches from late Judaism through Christianity during the Salem Witch Trials. 

What do you think, Reader? Do you have a penchant for weird (and sometimes weirdly grotesque) histories? What odd subject would you like to read on? 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Carrie, Carrie, Carrie

Posted 27 October, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in

As Halloween is upon us and I noticed that the new Carrie film was on Netflix, it only seemed appropriate to do a three way comparison. Since I consider Carrie to be a book/movie that has become a part of our collective cultures, there will be spoilers. But, I’m pretty sure if you haven’t read/seen it already… you still already know about it.

Let’s just get this out of the way up front. Neither movie holds a candle to the original source novel. King wrote an epistolatory novel that also has flashes of into the first person of a few different characters. See my review. But the characters are well fleshed out and there’s just no way that could ever be translated to the screen.  Now that we have that out of the way, let’s compare movies.

I lurve the original 1976 film directed by Brian de Palma and with Sissy Spacek in the title role. But last night I finally got around to watching the 2013 version directed by Kimberly Peirce with Chloe Grace Moretz in the title role. (I liked it a lot too!) I think the easiest way  to do this is going to be a side by side comparison.

Carrie

Title character – miscast this and the whole movie is going to be ruined. As I said before I lurve Sissy Spacek’s take on this kid, but Mortez brings something different to the character. I think that Spacek’s portrayal is more true to the book, but I love the attitude that Mortez brings to the character after she realizes the power that she wields. While Spacek remains the ‘deer in the headlights’ Carrie throughout the entirety of the film, after discovering her powers and especially after having the pig’s blood dumped on her, Mortez starts to kick ass and takes no names.

Verdict: Tie. I just can’t choose.

Margaret White

Personally, I think it would have been cool to see Sissy Spacek come back and play the role of Margaret White, but Hollywood and its infinite wisdom did not allow for that. Instead we have Piper Laurie in the 1976 classic and Julianne Moore in Peirce’s 2013 version. I loved what Peirce did at the beginning of the 2013 film, seeing Margaret give birth to Carrie, alone, and wanting to kill her because she’s such a fanatic nut was frickin’ brilliant. We get some of that in the ’76 version but it’s done through allusion rather than what the audience actually sees.

I also love how Moore is shown in the 2013 version flagellating herself, using her fingernails, or the seam ripper. That being said, Laurie didn’t pull punches when trying to portray the totally batshit crazy religious mom.

Verdict: Julianne Moore for taking it up a notch with the self flagellation, even if she seems a wee-bit more approachable than Piper Laurie.

Sue Snell

Maybe it was just the seventies realness that left me unable to really connect with Amy Irving as Sue Snell in the original movie. Or maybe it was because I wanted to punch her in the face. But I felt like Gabriella Wilde came closer than Irving in portraying the character as written in the book. In the book Sue really is sympathetic to Carrie and is haunted by her actions in the infamous locker scene even before the main action goes down.

Verdict: Gabriella Wilde, Class of 2013.

Chris Hargensen

The meanest of the mean girls. I love the feathered hair realness that Nancy Allen brought to the role in ’76, but I felt like it was Portia Doubleday brought the true mean-girl/really nasty girl high-school bully to the screen. Two parts masochist, one part scared little girl who counts on Daddy to make it all right. I was disappointed in both versions with the pissing contest that takes place between the principal and Hargensen’s lawyer dad over her suspension and loss of prom privileges. In the book the principal has some incredible balls and promises a counter lawsuit under the theory of locos parentis (which I really don’t think would have worked, but hey, fiction, right?) on behalf of the treatment Carrie receives from Chris.

This was close one, but I think the iPhone update pushes it over the edge for me.

Verdict: Doubleday, for publishing the ‘plug it up’ video on YouTube and for generally just looking scary and entitled.

Penultimate Shower Scene

The opening scene to the novel and the movies – this is the scene that sets the tone for the rest of the body of work. While I enjoyed the updates in the 2013 version, I felt like Spacek’s performance was rawer and realer than Mortez’s performance. I think that Spacek shows a lot more vulnerability that keeps pace with the way that the novel was written. Besides, Mortez is just too damn pretty. On the other hand the cinematography of the original focuses just a little too long to pubescent girls just having and awesome time in the locker-room, which is so far removed from reality I don’t even know what to classify it as.

Verdict: 1973’s performance was rawer, realer, and does a better job at setting the tone for the movie.


Prom Night

In the 2013 version I really think this is where Carrie begins to come into her own. She kicks ass, take no names and becomes judge, jury, and executioner to her tormentors. We also get to see Sue’s pregnancy (she’s not a virgin and she gets to live?! What the what?!). Even in the stances the two actresses are taking, you see Mortez owns the power better than Spacek. I like that.

Verdict: Prom Night 2013, foreveah!

Overall Verdict:
Well, obviously the book wins over any movie adaptation. But I think I’m going to have to go out on  a crazy limb and say that I preferred the 2013 reboot to the original film. It felt truer to the book, the characters were less one dimensional, and I’m pretty sure Peirce snuck some subversive feminist messages in there. It’s also worth noting that school shootings and mass terror wasn’t a thing in 1976, so that made the subject matter of a girl basically blowing up her high school all the more… explosive today?  (Sorry, poor taste.) But Peirce handles the subject matter deftly, and I can’t recall a single cringe worthy moment on account of that type of subject matter.

So, Readers, what do you think? Have you read the book? Seen either of the movies? What’s your preference? Oo! Has anyone seen the musical?


April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Fiend: …and the meth-heads shall inherit the Earth.

Posted 10 October, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Fiend: …and the meth-heads shall inherit the Earth.Fiend by Peter Stenson
Published by Crown/Archetype on July 9th 2013
Genres: Fiction, General, Horror, Literary, Science Fiction
Pages: 304
Goodreads
three-half-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

There’s more than one kind of monster.   When Chase first sees the little girl in umbrella socks disemboweling the Rottweiler, he's not too concerned. As a longtime meth addict, he’s no stranger to such horrifying, drug-fueled hallucinations.     But as he and his fellow junkies soon discover, the little girl is no illusion. The end of the world really has arrived. And with Chase’s life already shattered by addiction, the apocalypse might actually be an opportunity—a last chance to hit restart, win back the love of his life, and become the person he once dreamed of being.    That is, if the darkness inside him doesn't destroy everything—again.

I want to use all the puns here. I’ll just stick with ‘fiendishly funny’.  I’m not generally compelled by action driven novels, which is why I’ve only read a handful of zombie apocalypse novels, but this one definitely stands apart from the pack. There seems to be a touch of Chuck Palahunik’s style in Stenson’s writing – which of course I love.
 
There’s nothing too deep and important to be found in this novel, so it’s great fun as a Halloween read. and I love the twist that Stenson puts on the whole zombie genre – he just makes it his thing, the zombies giggle. Which is totally creepy, but also a little funny. …and I couldn’t help myself from thinking the whole time, “…and the meth-heads shall inherit the earth.” Honestly, I can’t think of another zombie apocalypse story that’s anything like it.
 
The characters are fleshed out enough and believable (under the circumstances). I particularly enjoyed THE Albino – the cook that Chase and Typewriter first run to.  The A and B love stories with KK/Jared and KK/Chase were relevant enough to the action that they didn’t get in the way – in other words, they weren’t extraneous. You know how much I hate a love story just for the sake of a love story.
 
All the characters and flawed and tragic in their own way, but scrappy survivalists as well. Despite the fact that my knowledge of meth is completely compiled of watching Breaking Bad, I still felt that these characters were incredibly relatable and I found myself rooting for them.
 
So glad I chose to pick up this book. Highly recommended to anyone who likes zombie novels and dark humor, but probably not recovering meth-addicts. 
 
Whatcha think, Reader? Are you looking for a new twist on the zombie genre? What’s the weirdest twist on a ‘settled’ monster (vampires, zombies, werewolves, etc.) genre you’ve seen lately? 
 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Guest Post: Conversations With History

Posted 31 July, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in guest post, Reviews

Conversations with History by Susan Lander, Attorney at Law
Review by: AnnaSaurus Rex
Anticipated publication: August 11, 2014
Source: Publisher. I received this book in consideration for an honest review.
Guys. I can’t even. I…I’ll start here — This book had me at its synopsis:

Channeled by a psychic medium and written in interview format, this book takes readers on a unique journey with 22 spirits who were famous (or infamous) during their time on earth. Renowned personalities from 600 b.c. to 2011 a.d.—from Charlemagne, Ben Franklin, and Gandhi to Walt Disney, Kurt Vonnegut, and Steve Jobs—have returned to share their most important messages with us. Their passing led them to understand their life lessons and the ramifications of their choices. And now, with the clear-eyed vision gained only from the Other Side, they’re taking center stage one last time to offer us insights into their lives that they didn’t possess while they were here.

Sounds AMAZEBALLSright?!  I was all…
…when I took it up. The “About the Author” section blew me a-fucking-way. She tells us she has been battling with illness since her teenage years, is a lawyer, and ultimately was in a coma, which is when some spirited friends (!!!) paid her a visit:

Four months [after the coma], the surprise my spirit guides promised appeared – Ben Franklin showed up in my kitchen. Thus began the parade of spirits clamoring for an interview…when [my book] was finished, I entered it in a contest with Hay House – and won a publishing contract. No agent, no rejections, just a book contract.

Any normal person would have been all:
Not Susan! If that isn’t proof that there’s some crazy shit out in the universe I don’t know wha—well, maybe it’s just an indicator that Hay House may not be in business much longer. Although, the rumor mill says they ARE publishing a sequel. Anyway, here’s hoping they stay in business long enough to give yours truly a book deal!
I’m not being hateful, I promise. Like I said, I was very excited to read this. What would Gandhi think of Twitter? Would Walt Disney personally apologize to me for his company treating me as an indentured servant? Would Patrick Swayze remember that time we made eye contact in Whole Foods?? Okay, maybe that one was a dream. Anyway. TELL ME YOUR SECRETS SPIRIT WORLD!
WARNING: If you do not want your magical sense of innocence and whimsy ruined, I beg you to skip this next section!
Ruining Your Dreams
Imagine my disappointment when I actually became BORED with this book. A couple of chapters in it became apparent that Susan Lander, Esq. was using this format as an excuse to preach her own vision and values to the world.
Don’t misunderstand me! I agree heartily with her ideas. The long and the short of it is we need to love more and live in harmony. Think hippie/libertarian/psychotic break politics. Redistribute wealth! Love yourself and others! Anger is useless! War is dumb! Equality! Like I said, it’s a legit message that I can appreciate. It should be said more often. And much louder. I believe Conversations with History is an especially effective way to communicate this message because the target audience for this piece of work could probably stand to have some wisdom laid down on them.
It is now safe to return if you want to continue wearing your magical-wonderland-glasses throughout life.
Anyway, 22 dead celebrities drop in and chat about love, believing in YOU, hard work, etc. As previously discussed, all very good stuff, but it gets a trifle boring. I am a child of the 21st century and I require constant interjections of cat gifs and puns to stay engaged!
Since entertainment was lacking, I ended up letting my mind wander and re-imagine what Susan had already imagined, i.e. what these dead celebrities were really trying to say to us. Sure, Henry Ford says love and money are connected, but is the subtext that is he’s dying to hook up with Steve Jobs? Twenty-two is too many to go through in this post, so I’ll just pick out a few of my favorites.
Susan gives us the word-for-word communication. Now, I present to you the deep and important nuances of these interviews.
The Realness
Abbie Hoffman – Presented in history as an antiwar activist in the Vietnam era, his interview leads me to believe he’s most likely a double agent for The Man. All this hippie-dippy-power-to-the-people stuff is merely a smoke screen for his nefarious plots. What I glean from the interview is that there is no free will. Per Hoffman, all our current ideas are put into our heads by dead hippies:

We are putting the energy into the collective consciousness from the Other Side, and people “catch” the ideas.

Sure, he claims the ideas we catch are about peace…OR ARE THEY?! I just don’t trust this guy. As a result, I want to catch his ideas about as much as I want to catch chlamydia. He speaks in pretty general terms and my guess is he’s just letting us know that The Powers in the Spirit World can fuck with us any time they damn well please. Take my word – this is a warning shot.
Frederick Douglass– A former slave turned leader of the abolitionist movement, Susan says Fred is hella chill. When reading her description of him, one of my notes says, “So he’s Morgan Freeman. Or is Morgan Freeman him?!?” Imma just leave you with that thought.
 
 
 

Betsy Ross – OMFG GUYS. B. Ross is GAAAAAY! And she was totes part of the underground gay community back in the day. In fact, I’m gonna go ahead and say she was the closeted Rachel Maddow of her times. DEAL WITH IT.

Charlemagne – As history remembers him, Charley was a military leader who conquered a shit ton of the world and forcibly converted his conquered subjects to Christianity. Sounds like a baller, no? Well, apparently he’s a huge fucking wimp. If Charlemagne was alive today (and animated), he’d definitely be Milhouse Van Houten (and if you don’t know that Milhouse is a character from The Simpsons we probably won’t ever be friends). Oh, you don’t believe me? You don’t think I’m truly clairvoyant? HOW DARE YOU DOUBT ME MINIONS! Blah, alright, here’s some evidence:

“As long as I functioned within the rules, I was protected…”

 Protected from whom, Charley? From Nelson perhaps?! Your Charle-mother-fucking-magne. Get your confidence on son!

“I believe in repairing conflicts through diplomacy.”

 C’mon. Really? I call shenanigans. SAY THAT TO MY FACE CHARLEY.
Gandhi – More like Yodhi, amirite?! Oh wait, you haven’t read this book. Let me explain. It’s a reference to Yoda and Star Wars. I’m gonna be honest, this parallel is shaky at best. It’s litereally built off of one line. I read it, felt it, and couldn’t look back. Here it is:

“To me, all that matters is that I tried.”

I read that and thought, “Do, or do not. There is no try.” Maybe this is a testament to my father and him introducing Star Wars to me at a young age. Maybe it reflects my specific level of geek. Either way, I’m fine with it. The point is, I read this line and immediately thought, “He’s like Yoda, except he’s cool with you just trying.” Which I feel like is totes Gandhi.
As a bonus, there’s also this:

God is the life force. You can’t see him but you can feel him. On one level God includes our connection to others. But to me he feels huge, and his energy and life force permeate everything.

 Sure, this is more of an Obi Wan quote (“Well, the Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.”), but the theme remains the same.
In short, spot on Susan. Spot. On.
Albert Einstein – Self identified as Neo from The Matrix. I cannot improve upon that.
Henry Ford – Okay, so Henry has a hard-on for Steve Jobs. Totes would have a three way with him and another player, TBD. The short list includes President Obama (but not until that one day when he crosses to the Other Side of course). And I quote:

Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden. Original sin? I don’t think so. Original beauty. The Apple logo was so inspired.

AND

…while you’re listening, please do not be hardheaded or stubborn in your beliefs. It’s important for your growth. I wish I had been a little more open-minded. You can never be open-minded enough.

AND

You may love it! Allow yourself to be surprised.

 OPEN-MINDED. KNOW WHAT I’M SAYIN?! SURPRISED, RIIIIIIIGHT? Also, a little later:

 Say what you mean, mean what you say, and then stand up for that. Put some backbone behind it.

I take this to mean that he is a top.
Time to Move into the Light
I have some more thoughts on the additional celebrities including a Rocky reference (please review my Twitter history to understand my true feelings on the Rocky movies) and a wannabe Cher, but, unlike our featured author, I will not drone on.
I give Conversations with History 3 ½ Overpriced Tarot Card Readings out of 5.
It’s a fun idea with a positive message that I support. The medium used (get it?!) to convey the message is a new one on me. For the record, that’s where the ½ of the 3 ½ comes from. Anyway, there’s hopefully a sequel, so someone pick it up and let me know what Jesus thinks about Tumblr!
 
So, Readers. Another fine review by our official psychic-medium interviews with dead guys correspondent. Whatcha thinking? Who’s going to pick up part two? Have you ever communed with the spirits? What’s the craziest book billed as non-fiction that you’ve ever read? 
 
AnnaSaurus Rex is no stranger to the book world. She’s the brave soul who reads the books that none of us dare to but wish we could. Hello dinosaur erotica and Christian mystery novellas! Go ahead and add psychics interviewing dead guys to the list. AnnaSaurus brings a sense of humor to all she does. You can follow her on Twitter @anna_saurus_rex where she live tweets from hospital waiting rooms, random music festivals, and during loads of bad nineties television.

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Stephen King Saturday: Happy Birthday Carrie!

Posted 21 June, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Stephen King Saturday: Happy Birthday Carrie!Carrie by Stephen King
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group Genres: Fiction, Horror, Occult & Supernatural
Pages: 192
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Stephen King's legendary debut novel about a teenage outcast and the revenge she enacts on her classmates. Carrie White may have been unfashionable and unpopular, but she had a gift. Carrie could make things move by concentrating on them. A candle would fall. A door would lock. This was her power and her sin. Then, an act of kindness, as spontaneous as the vicious taunts of her classmates, offered Carrie a chance to be normal and go to her senior prom. But another act--of ferocious cruelty--turned her gift into a weapon of horror and destruction that her classmates would never forget.

Carrie turned forty this year, so I thought it was a good time to give her a re-read. 

She blew my socks off!

The problem with classic Stephen King movies is that they are always sad reflections of the books. No matter how wonderful Sissy Spacek’s Carrie was or how amazing Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance was – they still don’t hold a candle to the original source material for these characters. Unfortunately it’s easier to experience a two hour movie than it is to sit down and read the original – so the movie is inevitably what gets stuck in our head.

This book is about way more than cruel teenage girls throwing tampons, though interestingly enough, this incident is the catalyst to the entire rest of the novel and it happens almost as soon as you open the book. 

Carrie, like a few different early-era King novels, focuses on the feeling of being a misfit as an adolescent. But Carrie doesn’t just have her general weirdness working against her, she has possibly the worst mother in contemporary literature. All of that leads her to the spark of her unknown tele-kinetic power. 

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. It actually has withstood time very very well. The most dated thing about it is teenage Sue’s pondering how her future husband will eventually move up in the world when he moves to a ‘five-figure’ earning bracket. 

All the themes in this book felt current and stylistically it is pretty modern. It’s written through the eyes of a few different characters, but also includes excerpts from fake academic papers on ‘The Carrie White Incident’ and newspaper clippings. I’d say it’s definitely gotten better with time. Worth the read.

I haven’t seen the new Carrie movie, should I? What book have you come back to and been surprised how much you still liked it, Reader?

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April @ The Steadfast Reader

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