Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Review: The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins

I think we all know this book has gotten a lot of hype.  All of it is well deserved.

Rachel is an alcoholic.  She commutes back and forth on the train each day to London.  The train always makes a stop in front of a house on the street where she used to live.  After seeing the same house out the window every day, she's invented an entire history about the couple who live there - Jess and Jason.  One day, Rachel sees "Jess" kissing a strange man.  The next day, Jess is missing.  This story is told from Rachel's point of view, and also from the point of view of Megan ("Jess"), and Anna (the woman married to Rachel's ex-husband).

This book was fantastic.  I can see why it has received so much attention.  I'm a sucker for books told from multiple points of view.  I listened to this on audio, and I loved hearing the different narrators.  Each point of view left me with the urge to continue the story in order to hear what happens next - not cliffhangers necessarily, but I definitely wanted to get back to that person's storyline asap.  

I have trouble reading about people with substance abuse problems.  This was a little hard for me at times.  I felt the same about The Goldfinch.  There's something about that loss of control that really freaks me out, and although the story is supposed to be chilling because Megan is missing, the substance abuse thing added another layer of uncomfortable for me.  I originally chose this book because it was October and I thought a suspense would be perfect for the Halloween season.  I didn't find the book "scary", but it was certainly suspenseful.  

This is an example of a book I loved despite disliking all of the main characters.  I think this is difficult for an author to accomplish - keeping the reader interested when there's nothing redeemable about the characters.  I felt for Rachel, especially after understanding why her alcoholism started, but I still didn't like her very much.  I definitely disliked Megan and (especially) Anna.  And don't get me started on the men.  The premise was so captivating it made up for the fact that I wasn't really rooting for anyone in particular.

This is a great book - it kept me guessing and was fantastic on audio.  I had a particularly long week of driving ahead of me, and this was absolutely perfect.

Interested? Pick it up!

How about you?  Have you read The Girl on the Train?  Did you enjoy it?  Was it worth all the hype?  Did you like any of the characters?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Finding my local comics shop

A little over a year ago, I started getting interested in reading comics.  It really started when Book Riot started a sister site - Panels.  I had never read a comic book.  But here were a bunch of readers talking about comics - and although they are not people I've ever met in real life, they are people whose blogs I had been following before Book Riot existed.  So I paid attention.  I added Panels to my feedly and started learning in bits and pieces. 

A couple of months later, Dominic was away for the weekend visiting my parents.  I had a night to myself.  I stopped at the mall and found myself in Newbury Comics.  Despite having the word "comics" in the store name, there is really only a small section of the store devoted to comics.  This was a little surprising to me.  A very nice gentleman came up to me and asked if I needed any help.  I did.  I had absolutely no idea what I was looking at.  This guy was really helpful and seemed really excited I was buying my first ever comic book.  

Because I'm me, I had researched and decided what I wanted to pick up before I even entered the store.  I came home with Thor #1 (because it was a #1, and Thor was now a lady - which is pretty awesome), and the first trade of Saga (because I didn't have to wade very far into the comics pool before I found out that people universally think Saga is amazing).  (Saga is indeed amazing.)

I devoured these comics when I got home and decided this was a medium I was ready to get behind.  So the next day I went back to Newbury Comics.  The nice guy wasn't working that day.  So I had to talk to a teenager, which is normally not a problem for me, except this kid knew as much about comics as I did.  Not a good sign.  Whatever, I grabbed the next two trades of Saga and went home.

Now here is where the story gets amazing.

I remembered seeing a store on my drive to work.  It had a bunch of super heros painted on the front.  I looked them up and found out that this was indeed a comic shop and it was right near my house.  I had been driving past it on my to and from work for years.  YEARS.  

The guys who work at this shop are so great.  They took the time to go over a lot of terminology with me.  They asked me about things I liked and they set me up with my very own sub box.  

My sub list has grown a lot in the past year.  I pop into the shop every week.  

They give Dominic a lollipop when he comes in the shop with me.  

I can browse for hours and they're always there to answer questions (even when my questions are about basic things).  

They go through the preview catalogue with me so I can check out new releases.  

One time, it was raining and they saw me unbuckling Dom from his carseat and they ran out into the parking lot to tell me I had nothing in my sub box - just so I wouldn't get all wet in the parking lot with an overexcited toddler.  

And here is the best part.  They've gotten to know my tastes.  When I pour over the preview catalogue they point out what's getting the buzz.  These last couple of weeks they've pulled some neat looking #1s before they sold out and put them in my sub box.  (And they were spot on - I added them all to my list!)

This is a new experience for me.  Frequenting a place so often that they get to anticipate things I may be interested in.  I don't have an indie bookstore (closest bookstore is a Barnes & Noble), and I've always been kind of jealous of people who establish a relationship with their booksellers.  I finally get it - I'm not sure I would be reading half the titles I love if I had continued to shop at the mall.

So a year in, this has been one of the best things I've tried as a reader.  Thankful!  

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Review: The Devil in Silver - Victor LaValle

Pepper finds himself an inmate of a mental institution.  A terrifying creature with the body of an old man and the head of a bison visits his room.  He is almost killed.  This happens on more than one occasion, and every time, the hospital staff just ushers the creature away.  He is not imagining this - everyone else in the ward knows exactly what is going on.  The devil roams the hallways and the floor above the institution.

This book was great.  I received it in my "horror box" from Book Riot.  (Side note - these boxes are awesome and worth checking out.)  It was expecting a scary tale, but I was more pleased by the story I actually found.  Yes, the devil is scary.  It was definitely a scary tale.  However, there was a lot more going on.

Scarier than the devil roaming the hallways was the idea of being in a mental institution.  In this particular book, the conditions and treatments were totally sketchy.  And the people really had no recourse.  There's this being roaming the hallways preying on the patients.  Inmates are drugged to the gills.  Restraints are used as punishment.  And if these people said anything, who is going to believe them?  They're mental patients.  The idea of being in this institution is far scarier than the devil roaming the hallways.  And that's saying something, because the description of this devil is pretty damn scary.

If you're looking for a scary read that has a lot of substance, pick up The Devil in Silver.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Comic I'm Loving - Wytches

These are not the witches of our childhood.  No green face make-up.  No hocus pocus.  These Wytches are absolute monsters.  They're huge and gangly.  They are coming for you.

I started reading Wytches about a year ago.  I subscribe to the single issues from my local comic book shop.  This means that every month there is a new issue in my subscription box at my shop.  The first six issues complete a story arc, and you can buy all six issues condensed in a paperback (called a trade paperback).  I highly recommend you pick this up.

This comic is about a family trying to escape a trauma.  Trying to get their lives back on track.  Spoiler - it's not going to happen.  These Wytches live in trees.  You can pledge another person's life to the Wytches.  And in return, you can basically get whatever you want.  A longer life.  Health.  Love.  And if you're pledged, that's it.  The Wytches will not stop until you are theirs.

So this comic taps into the part of me that love spooky things.  These Wytches are terrifying.  Look at this.

The art is amazing.  I'm not sure what's in the trade, but in the single issues, there is a short piece from the author at the end of each issue.  He has talked about how he got the idea, and how the art is created.  It's the most unique art I've seen in a comic.  Absolutely amazing.

The artist, Jock, creates the panels and overlays it with watercolor splotches done on paper, scanned, and digitally combined with the illustrations.  It's so great.  And it creates this feeling of disorientation that really fits the storyline.  I can't say enough about it.

The storyline is scary, but also really thought provoking from a parenting perspective.  It really has a lot to do with being a parent, and the fears you are constantly harboring for your kids.  This comic really has a lot to say.  I used to think comics were just superheros or Charlie Brown cartoons.  I couldn't have been more wrong!  There is real substance here, and it's coupled with some amazing images.

If you're interested, you should definitely get the first volume - Wytches Volume 1 and check it out.  This is, by far, one of my favorite comics.  Don't miss out.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The most wonderful time of the year

Halloween has always been my favorite time of year.

Dreaming up costumes at home.  I don't think we ever had a store-bought costume.  Mom?  Help me out on this?  I dressed up as the wicked witch of the west every year until probably 3rd grade.  Every.  Year.  Starting October 1, I have memories of dressing as a witch on our daily afternoon walks as a little girl.  I was under the age of 5.  Green face make-up, black witches hat.  Long black fake fingernails.  As we took our walks, I remember making faces on the bridge over I495.  People driving to work, and here's this little kid trying to scare them.  They flashed their headlights, and sometimes they beeped their horns.  My mother, god bless her, completely indulged me with the dressing up.  It's possible that my little brother was 1.5 at the time and she was just happy I was occupied and happy.  Nevertheless, I loved being that witch.  I loved dressing up as something scary.

Carving pumpkins.  I absolutely love the smell of a freshly carved pumpkin.  It brings all the feels.  I love sinking my hands into the pulp and seeds.  It was so fun watching my parents make these scary faces in these fall vegetables.  Roasted pumpkin seeds remain one of my favorite snacks, and I only get them once a year.

We never trick-or-treated with friends.  It was always my brother and I.  I'd say that overall, we got along as kids.  Of course we were siblings, so we fought frequently.  I was older and didn't want my kid brother tagging along all the time.  He just wanted to hang with with the big kids.  Going trick-or-treating was a moment that we were totally getting along.  I remember us getting dressed up.  I remember being annoyed (when I was older) that my parents made me dress in winter clothes under my costume.  (New Hampshire is cold, friends.)  After we got home, my brother and I would do a candy trade.  I'd inevitably get in trouble for trying to arrange bullshit deals.  (I'll trade you two Mike&Ike licorice for two Snickers!)  My parents made us combine our candy after a couple of days.  I remember one Halloween it snowed.  We always thought we saw real witches flying across the sky, and every sound was a werewolf.  Mom and Dad totally played into this.

My brother and I like to play in the "woods" next to our house.  I'm using the word "woods" lightly.  It was, like, 20 feet of trees before the road.  But we had these big rocks and lots of imagining going on.  Mom, once again being a good sport, would play this cassette tape of spooky haunted house noises starting October 1.  Playtime is always better with a soundtrack.

I still love the smell of freshly fallen leaves.  Fall is my favorite time of year.  I love spooky things.  I've been reading spooky stuff all month.  I have a spiced pumpkin scented candle burning as we speak.

Before Dominic was born, Dennis and I would light a fire in an outdoor fire pit, get pizza and wine, and sit in the driveway to greet the trick-or-treaters.  Luckily, he loves Halloween too.  This was so much fun!

Now that Dominic is more excited to trick-or-treat, the fun can really begin.  His first year he was only 2 months old.  He was a tootsie roll.  We pulled the couch over to the door so I could nurse and Dennis could pass out the candy.

The next year, Dominic was a monkey.  Full disclosure, he hated the hat.  It was removed before we got to the house next door.

Last year, Dom was a penguin.  It was pretty kickass.  He walked the whole way and figured out pretty quickly that "trick-or-treat" resulted in candy from a bowl.  He got several treats along the way and it was super fun.

This year he's going to be an astronaut.  Full disclosure once again, he's afraid of his costume.  We figured out he thinks the night will involve him actually shooting into space in a rocket.  We've been trying to explain that it's just pretend, but to no avail.  He's convinced he's been training for his mission these past  months.  And here we were thinking we were fostering his interest in the planets!

So, Halloween is awesome.  We hope to make it special, just like our parents used to.  I want Dominic to have fun memories of this fun time of year.  Mom was fun and made the whole season magical.  There were spooky things around every corner.  Dominic is still young, but we're trying!