Book Review: The Revival by Stephen King

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This is going to be a short one because I don’t have much to say about it. I didn’t hate it, so I don’t want to spoil it. But I didn’t love it, either, so there isn’t much to gush about. Shorter version of a short review: if you like whisper-subtle horror that leads to a truly bizarre climax, absolutely read this book. If you like Stephen King in general, consider picking this one up.

The novel opens with an idyllic scene from a small town on the eastern edge of America. It’s Stephen King, though, and that goes without saying. A six year old boy (Jamie, our main character) meets the town’s new preacher, a young man named Charles Jacobs. We are also introduced to Jacobs’ beautiful wife and young son. Red flags for days. It’s not a spoiler to tell you they die, it basically tells you as much on the back flap of the book. And, obviously, right? It’s at that point that Jacobs abandons his faith and tells the town (from the pulpit, no less) that they’re fools to believe in God.

What follows is a brutally real recounting of Jamie’s life after Jacobs leaves town. He joins a band, finds drugs, joins a different band, gets addicted, gets ousted from yet another band, and finds himself homeless. He stumbles through a carnival looking to score heroin and runs into Jacobs instead. The former preacher is running some kind of magic show there. He tells Jamie he can cure his addiction with electricity.

And that’s about all I’m willing to say. It gets pretty twisty from there. It doesn’t, however, get scary. I’ve always adored Stephen King and I don’t begrudge him expanding his craft. Murder mysteries and experimental fiction are all worthy endeavors. I even like them, most of the time. But when I saw the cover, and read the short reviews, I expected old style Stephen King. Or even his more recent oppressively creepy work that doesn’t deliver scares but more the feeling that nothing will ever be all right again.

Read this book for Stephen King’s impressive style and unique voice. Or for the story of two men whose lives become perpetually intertwined because of one good deed. But if you want to be scared, pick up something by King’s son, Joe Hill. I’m reading 20th Century Ghosts right now and it’s damn terrifying.

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Movie Review: The Boy (no spoilers)

These days, a trailer tells you exactly what you can expect from a movie. The trailer might as well be a synopsis of the plot. Especially with a horror movie. So I saw a trailer about a possessed doll and big creepy house and a hot babysitter and I thought, yeah, OK, I know what this is. I was pleasantly surprised.

I can’t say too much in this review without spoiling the whole thing, but I can issue this warning: the story is slow to start. They chuck you right in with the babysitter, Greta, riding in a taxi up to this giant spooky mansion. There’s a couple pointless, frustrating jump scares before you even meet the titular boy. It gets a bit tedious  for a time after that and it’s chock full of horror movie tropes.

If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve pretty much seen the first hour of this movie already. The original boy, Brahms, died in a house fire 20 years before and his parents treat a terrifyingly life like doll like he’s their little boy. Spooky enough, except Brahms keeps seeming like he might actually be a little boy. And it turns out that the parents (who call each other “mummy” and “daddy” just to add to the creep factor) have been looking for a nanny so that they can go on a two month vacation. They give her rules to follow which she immediately disregards when they walk out the door. Which leads to wacky doll related hi-jinks. The grocery boy comes around and fills out the plot and also prods Greta into sharing her backstory.

Then the movie goes fucking bananas.

This isn’t a good movie, but isn’t bad, either. I wouldn’t recommend it to a film snob or even a horror buff. It’s pretty standard fare, even with the twists. The plot pretty much falls apart with even the most cursory of inspections. However! If you can enjoy being scared without needing to pick apart every little thing, you should definitely see this movie. It’s genuinely enjoyable and has a few proper scares that aren’t just the typical jump scare.

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Harry Potter Candy Jars

I’m a terrible, terrible blogger. But I’m a phenom when compared to my abilities as a crafter. My husband is good at everything he tries, I’m not so fortunate. However, I had this idea and I got really excited about it. Lily, my niece who you likely remember from my kid crafts posts, asked me for candy for Christmas. So I needed to think of a way to give her candy and have it look like a present. I’m fancy like that. Teenagers are the worst.

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Now, Lily has never been huge on Harry Potter, much to my chagrin, but she’s fond enough of it for my idea to make sense. My other option was Percy Jackson and the candy is all just regular candy in that world.

Anyway.

I bought these super cool purple mason jars to start with.

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Then I found labels from Harry Potter candy online. Fortunately everything I used was briefly an actual product, so I didn’t have to dig deep for artistic skills that I don’t possess.

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I had originally meant to attach the labels in a super crafty fancy way that would look really good but I ran out of time. It’s been a super hectic Christmas season this year. So instead I used moderately fancy glue that I bought at Michael’s. That, combined with the fact that every surface of these jars have raised writing on them, means my labels don’t lay as flat as I would have liked.

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All the same, I’m pretty happy with my final results. I put the candy labels on the front and then Honeydukes labels on the back. Except for the Ton Tongue Toffee, which is a Weasley creation, and thus got a Weasley label.

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Licorice snaps=Twizzler bites
Acid pops=Dum-dums
Cockroach cluster=Turtles
Jelly slugs=Gummy worms
Ton-tongue toffee=Espresso hard candy
Bertie botts=Jelly belly jelly beans

The person whose opinion really matters was also pretty pleased with the result.

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Working from home, I guess?

I’m not a highly qualified potential employee with no degrees and only one long-term position on my resume. Add to that the fact that I have crippling social anxiety and you don’t get a lot of call-backs. As a result I’ve all but given up having a full-time position in a proper workplace. Since that revelation, I’ve been working on my novel and being a housewife and generally feeling worthless due to my lack of income.

During a brief break in my cycle of learned helplessness I decided to look into work from home options. There are quite a few and it’s a bit of a minefield. There are the typical pyramid schemes and sell-stuff-to-your-friends models that are not exactly great options. There are phone-based jobs that are mostly sales jobs and that’s a double can’t do for me. I can hardly talk to my friends on the phone and I guarantee you I couldn’t sell my grandmother a box of girl scout cookies. Yeah, I’m pretty bad.

The most prevalent jobs (and right up my alley!) are typing jobs. Transcriptioning, data entry, and the content mill stuff, whatever you would describe that as. Shilling? That’s biasing the jury, I think. Anyway, I’m not against them, I’m just wary about their usefulness to me. I mean, 75 cents per job and limited jobs? I could make literally tens of dollars! (Note: I am NOT above 75 cents a job, obviously.)

It’s taking a lot of work to get started and I’m not exactly rolling in dough at this point. I don’t expect to be ever, honestly. The good thing is I feel like I’m doing something. I don’t feel so worthless anymore just because I can’t get past my stupid panic to get a “real” job. If nothing else, this experience is making me less miserable and that’s not bad.

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Review: The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

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I’ve been struggling with writing for an overlong time. When I finished this book, I started to push myself harder. I know I’m this little, barely important voice, but the book was so good I wanted to sing its praises anyway.

The Paper Magician is the story of a 19 year old girl named Ceony Twill. She’s fresh out of Tagis Praff Academy for the Magically Inclined and about to start her apprenticeship. Most graduates get to choose the method of their enchanting: metal, glass, paper, etc. Ceony didn’t get that luxury. Paper magicians (called Folders) are few and far between, so a handful of graduates got assigned to that craft. All in the name of balance. Ceony wanted to be a Smelter, that is, to work with metal and is more than a little annoyed.

Though she is resistant, she is quickly intrigued by her teacher, Magician Thane, and the work he does. With and without paper. It is apparent to her that there is more to him than meets the eye. Before she can figure him out, however, a sudden and scary event catalyzes a fantastical adventure.

I have previously extolled the virtues (and groaned at the follies) of Young Adult fiction and this is one of those books. It does not, however, fall prey to all the pitfalls of your standard teen lit. Yes, there is a love interest but no, there is not a love triangle. Not as such. Yes, there is a hard-headed lead character but she is not so willful as to be dangerous to herself. She is intelligent, measured and strong. She rushes to save the day when needed but doesn’t do so at the cost of anyone else. What’s more, she doesn’t completely fall apart at the first sign of trouble and seek someone to help her.

The writing is sublime. Simple enough to digest for younger readers and complex enough for hold overs like myself. You could scoff at some of the well-worn metaphors and over-reaching analogies, but, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be too engaged to manage it. This is a hearty, heartfelt recommendation. Do you like books? Books about magic? Books that are awesome? Read this book!

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Every Book is a Movie

I hate how nearly every movie is a remake or “based on” a book. It’s hard to translate the subtlety of the printed word to the big screen and these movies are often terrible. YA books seem to be the most likely to be given this treatment. Likely because their stories are already watered down and made highly digestible for teens (and weirdos like me). The bad bit is that YA fiction needs its readers to not have that easy out. Teenagers are the most likely to opt out of a book in favor of a movie. And besides the wonderful experience of reading, these kids will lose out on so many tiny, immeasurably important details.

You might think I have a list of exceptions for you. I do not. I loved the Harry Potter movies but they compare not at all to the books. One simply cannot stand them side by side and expect the movies to hold up. The amount of things that needed to be dropped (or just were, for one reason or another), added on, and watered down, cheapened the world they were based on. If you read the books, you might see the movies as a supplement. That’s fine. But if you only saw the movies? To say you were missing out would be a gross understatement.

The Hunger Games have, so far, been worse. I enjoy those movies. They’re good movies. But if you haven’t read the books? You have no idea what’s going on in a lot of parts. The film makers chucked a handful of bones to the book-reading audience that leave the uninitiated audience mystified.

The Giver. Oh, man. I’ve loved this book since I was twelve years old and using one of my electives to be a librarian’s assistant. Its orange cover caught my eye, I opened it up and was immediately ensnared. This book. This book. They ruined it! That movie was a damned nightmare. Important details changed to fit the new story that they wrote. I guess because they original one wasn’t commercial enough? I have no idea. What I do know is that book had a simple, workable story, that they could have added to in order to make a movie. They declined that option. Instead, they took the basic premise of “guy gives memories to kid” and then wrote a whole new story. Ridiculous.

Some might argue it gives teens and kids a reason to pick up the books. I’ll accept that premise. It does raise awareness of the existence of the books. But it’s laughable to suggest that all or even most of the kids who see a movie are going to then read the book. They know the story, they’re done, they didn’t have to do any work. That’s the human condition, to seek the easiest way to accomplish a task. Kids are just worse about it.

Look, I just want kids to read books. Any roadblocks thrown up in front of that goal really ticks me off. That’s all I’m saying.

OK. I might also be saying that I hate movies based on books. For the record, if you ever see “based on a novel by Stephen King” and the movie isn’t Sissy Spacek’s Carrie, The Shining, or The Langoliers, do yourself a favor and read the book. King novels end up as terrible, terrible movies.

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YA Problems

I enjoy reading Young Adult fiction. I know, I know, I’m a grown woman. It’s not for me. But it feeds into my two greatest pleasures: quick, easy reads and complaining about stuff. Oh, man, do I love complaining about stuff.

The biggest problem with YA is of course that all the characters are teenagers. And teenagers are stupid. They’re hormonal, self-absorbed and completely unable to see the bigger picture. Not unwilling, mind you, unable. They seriously don’t get it because the only way you can understand certain things is by experiencing it. Gaining wisdom from it.

A prime example is the series I’m currently reading, Maze Runner by James Dashner. There are going to be slight spoilers in this example but I will be as vague as possible. It’s not an amazing series but it’s definitely not bad, so I don’t want to ruin it for anyone. The main character had his memories taken away by a group of people and then subsequently had a bunch a terrible things done to him by the same people. Now those people want to give him his memories back so he can understand why they did what they did.

A smart adult might think, I’ll get my memories back and make my own decision with both sets of memories. He thinks, I don’t want those memories back because I think I used to agree with these people like I used to. I have these new memories and these ones must be right. Refuses the memories of his entire life because he’s 16 years old and he can’t possibly be wrong about anything ever. So. Very. Frustrating.

Percy Jackson is much the same way. Katniss Everdeen. Harry Potter. Oh, man, the 5th Harry Potter book is the very bane of my existence. I love so many parts in it but I can’t ever read it because of the dozens of short-sighted teenage things that young Mr. Potter does. Just open the package Sirius gave you! It would fix everything! DAMN IT!

Moving on.

My love of YA fiction is coming in handy as my little reading buddy gets older. I can pre-read books to recommend to her (or tell her to never read ever, in the case of Divergent). I’ve already compiled a list of books I’m going to insist she read when she gets into high school. Hunger Games and Beautiful Creatures and possibly Maze Runner. So, at least, out of my complaining comes something nice. Let’s all pretend it evens out.

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