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Posts Tagged ‘Halloween’

Image result for images of halloweenWell, we had long ago planned a post for yesterday that dealt with scary books for Halloween (with a small shout out to voting). However, the tragic shooting in Pittsburgh on Saturday, and the pipe bombs sent last week, had us rethinking this as we went to post. It feels as if  entertainment from fake scary things may reduce the actual scary things occurring last week. So, we delayed a bit.

After some reflection, we are plunging ahead with some great recommendations of books for those of you needing some diversions through thrillers, mysteries, and some self-induced scares. We plunge ahead with a few caveats: 1) we know these books in no way reduce these tragedies, 2) our thoughts, best wishes, and some political actions are with Pittsburgh and the staff in all the offices who received scary mail last week, 3) anyone needing more contemplative reading may get some help from one of our previous posts – But the News, which we posted after the tragic events in Charlottesville in August 2017, and 4) an obvious statement this violence needs to end.

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Lethal White (A Cormoran Strike Novel) Cover ImageLethal White by Robert Galbraith (2018) – The newest instalment of Mr. Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike Detective series, has everything you loved from the first three – Mr. Strike’s complex life and personality, the moxy and romantic challenges of his smart once-sidekick and now-business partner Robin, and London. Fans of JK Rowling (aka Galbraith) will be thrilled as the page turning prose of Harry Potter continues in this series. Pick it up, dive in, and let its great quantity of well-paced pages entertain you for a bit. ~ Lisa Christie

Edgar Allan Poe Complete Tales and Poems Cover ImageEdgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales and Poems (2009). In honor of our scarily-themed Book Jam post, I pulled this complete collection of Edgar Allen Poe’s short poems and stories off the shelf (mind you, it’s heavy!). It is perhaps a must have for the robust home library – and if it’s not in yours, it is at least a title that a book lover should revisit at the time of year when a chill is in the air and the spirits return for a visit. My fingers immediately flipped to “The Tell Tale Heart,” a story about murder, guilt and madness that I was eager to reread. It had made a big impression on me as a sensitive 8th grader, when I was new to this author’s macabre sensibility. And, nearly 40 years later, it did not disappoint. It is just as disturbing, the narrator’s strange voice compelling me to hold the book at a slight distance, as if this could protect me from him. I love now, with a different perspective, to think not of Mr. Poe just as scary but also in his 19th century studio, brilliantly carving out a new American genre, writing about ravens, black cats, and sinister houses of Usher. It is completely worth a second – or first visit. ~ Lisa Cadow

The Haunting of Hill House Cover ImageThe Haunting of Hill House (and well almost anything) by Shirley Jackson  (1959) – Described as the greatest haunted house story of all times, Ms. Jackson’s novel of four seekers who visit a scary called Hill House and encounter what initially appears to just be unexplained phenomenon, but progresses to pure terror.  Ms. Jackson truly was a master of turning the ordinary into the chilling. As Stephen King praised, “[One of] the only two great novels of the supernatural in the last hundred years.” We love the fact Ms. Jackson was also a Vermonter. Enjoy! ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

The So Blue Marble Cover ImageThe So Blue Marble by Dorothy B. Hughes (1940 and 2018) – This slim book offers probably the spookiest opening chapter of any book I’ve read in awhile.  The every day matter of factness of the words contrasting the actions of the people just creeped me out. The rest of this short mystery swept me into the lives of the rich and famous in post WWI NYC. And while a bit campy, I enjoyed my time with them. If you are in the mood for a bit of NYC glamour, and/or some time travel back to the 1940s, pick this up.  Or as the New York Times Book Review stated, ”You will have to read [The So Blue Marble] for yourself, and if you wake up in the night screaming with terror, don’t say we didn’t warn you.” NOTE: We found this novel through the Passport to Crime and British Library Crime Classics reprints in a window display at the Norwich Bookstore. If you like this one, you can find many many more like it in these collections. ~ Lisa Christie

The Turn of the Screw and Other Ghost Stories Cover ImageThe Turn of the Screw and other ghost stories by Henry James (1898) – In this classic horror tale, a nanny becomes convinced her charges are being stalked by the supernatural.  It remains in print over 100 years later for a reason. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft Cover ImageThe entire Stephen King canon The Shining, It, The Body (assorted years) – Basically, just about anything Mr. King writes is guaranteed to scare you. And, if you are in the mood for a superb memoir, Mr. King’s On Writing remains one of our favorites. It truly changed the way we viewed his prose. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

And, as a reminder to EVERYONE to PLEASE VOTE NEXT WEEK, we close with a review from our friend and bookseller Carin Pratt – Fear, which offers a look at our current political climate which has truly become the scariest part of the news. And on that note, we again send prayers and wishes and probably most importantly a promise to be agents of hope, love, and change, to all those affected by Saturday’s bombing of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and the mail bombs from last week.

Fear: Trump in the White House Cover ImageFear by Bob Woodward (2018) – If you read the Washington Post and/or the New York Times you may not find many surprises in this meticulously reported account of Trump in the White House. But in the aggregate, this portrayal of a dysfunctional, chaotic White House and a president whose attention span is non-existent, whose knowledge of policy, economics and foreign policy (i.e Why DO we have NATO?) is sparse, to say the least, and whose judgment and morals, well, let’s not go there — is devastating and scary. Fear indeed. – Reviewed by Carin Pratt

PS — SO, once again, PLEASE VOTE — no matter your preference, we really hope you all just VOTE.  And finally click here for some political inspiration from our home state to help us all survive these scary times. We promise you will love this clip, and we hope you enjoy some humorous words from Al Yankovic.

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So Halloween, it’s a time where we dress up as things we fear, and a time where the things we don’t want to talk about come to our doorstep asking for candy — no not the children, but the grim reaper, or witches, or corpses, or (name your demon here).

The parade of costumes last week, and a recent conversation during which one of our teens lamented, “Why can’t I have parents who don’t talk about uncomfortable things?” has us thinking — How does one develop comfort talking about uncomfortable topics?

Our answer, of course, is reading great books helps get these conversations started. So today, we are recommending books to help you think and ideally talk about some uncomfortable topics. May they all lead to great conversations.

Three items to note: 1) We experienced frustrating technical difficulties yesterday, denying us the chance to keep to our posting schedule of Mondays. 2) In our attempt to include all readers, we generated a long list of books and topics for this post. 3) We are making lemonade out of lemons and using some creative flexibility, by posting on two Tuesdays – today and next week. Today, we tackle death, mental health, addiction, and sexual assault. Next week – race, sexual identity, and politics. We truly hope these reviews lead to books that help us all have difficult conversations more often (or at least to better understand the news of late).

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Death

FC9781632861016.jpgCan’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast (2014) – First brought to our attention by Lucinda Walker, town librarian extraordinaire, this memoir is funny, poignant, and helpful. It truly offers a superbly humorous way to approach failing health and ultimately death. As Lucinda said in her six-word review during the 2014 Pages in the Pub, “Laugh. Cry. Laugh again. Then talk”. ~ Lisa Christie

When Breath Becomes Air Cover ImageWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalinithi (2016) – (First reviewed in the summer of 2016.) At the outset, we know that the author, 36-year old Paul will succumb to lung cancer at the height of his career as a neurosurgeon. Don’t let this deter you from reading his incredible story and from benefiting from the insights he gleaned during his short life. Dr. Kalinithi is a brilliant writer who was curious from a young age about the workings of the mind and it’s connection to our soul. He studied philosophy and creative writing before committing to medicine. These studies give him other lenses from which to explore profound questions. He is candid with the reader about his personal and professional struggles. Ultimately, I found this book hopeful and inspiring. When I turned the last page I immediately wanted to share it with loved ones. ~ Lisa Cadow (and seconded by Lisa Christie)

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Mental Health 

FC9780525555360.jpgTurtles All The Way Down by John Green (2017) – As someone for whom Mr. Green’s novel The Fault in Our Stars devastated and sustained me because I read it while a lovely, young friend died from cancer, and as someone for whom his An Abundance of Katherines, had me laughing aloud as I pictured the text as an old-fashioned buddy movie (with a Muslim teen in a starring role), I hesitated to read Mr. Green’s latest novel as I was afraid it would disappoint. It does not. The main character – Aza and her best friend Daisy – a writer of Star Wars fan fiction, meander through high school, first loves, and math in Indianapolis. However, Aza also suffers from spiralling thoughts that take over her life, a mental health condition treated in a straightforward and insightful manner as this lovely tale unfolds. The characters feel real, the situations are not cliche, and Mr. Green’s writing about teen life propels the reader forward faster than he or she might wish — savoring a good story is a gift we all can benefit from. Perhaps, what touched me the most was his matter of fact acknowledgement at the end of the novel that mental illness affects Mr. Green’s own life. I also appreciated his gift of providing resources in his end notes, and second his hope that those who suffer from mental illness are not alone in their journeys. ~ Lisa Christie

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Addiction

FC9780393608960.jpgThe Outrun by Amy Liptrot (2017) – When Amy Liptrot decides to confront her alcoholism head on, she makes a beeline from the bright lights and big city of London to her home in the Orkney Islands of northern Scotland. She grew up there on a farm;  the “outrun” refers to a remote pasture on her parents’ land. In this frank memoir (one reviewers and readers alike have compared to Helen MacDonald’s phenomenal 2015  H Is For Hawk) Ms. Liptrot reflects on her sense of place and the role her upbringing played in her addiction. Her journey shares her triumphs, learnings, and challenges. She brings us to the brink  — and to the northernmost reaches of Scotland, writing at one point from an isolated cottage on the island of Papa Westray, where Scotland’s oldest dwelling is located dating from 3500BC. Highly moving, haunting, and recommended. ~Lisa Cadow

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Sexual Assault

FC9780804170567.jpgMissoula by Jon Krakauer (2015) – It took awhile for this to get to the top of my bedside stack of books, but once I started I could not put it down. Mr. Krakauer’s rigorously researched analysis of 52 months of reported sexual assaults around the University of Montana is enlightening, sad, anger-provoking and most tragically could have been written in so many college towns. This is important, read it, ponder it, and somehow act to end a culture in which victims are punished over and over again. ~ Lisa Christie

FC9781449486792.jpgthe sun and her flowers by Rupi Kaur (2017) – Somehow we missed Ms. Kaur’s first best-selling book, but in a time where the news is full of people behaving horribly and many of us feel angst and hopelessness, Ms. Kaur’s honest poems about heart-break, loss, rape, love, relationships, and hope seem needed. This collection is divided into five sections wilting, falling, rooting, rising, and blooming; falling deals with sexual assault and it’s aftermath. We leave you with a quote from this collection, “to hate is an easy, lazy thing, but to love takes strength everyone has, but not all are willing to practice”. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

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Halloween is right around the corner, and it seems as if many people are thinking spooky thoughts or at least pondering perfect costumes. We thought we would take a few minutes during this spookiest of weeks to highlight some thrilling books for you to read.  As many are complete page-turners, and a few slightly haunting, you might want to find a nightlight to use as you enjoy them.

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel (2014) – A collection by Hillary Mantel is probably not the most obvious choice for a post about thrillers. But trust us, many of the short stories contained in this collection are down right haunting, especially as they are portrayed in such a matter-of-fact, plausible manner. From the title story about a man trapped in his flat with a would-be assassin of Prime Minister Thatcher, to a shorter tale about the end of a marriage, to a story of two pre-teen girls spying on a mysterious form, Ms. Mantel’s narrators are a bit warped and the every day situations they encounter unusually framed. As an NPR reviewer wrote “Every other story here makes a permanent dent in a reader’s consciousness because of Mantel’s striking language and plots twists, as well as the Twilight Zone-type mood she summons up.” And, if you have not yet read anything by Ms. Mantel, these stories provide a great excuse to try her work. The New York Times wrote in their review of this collection, “Over the past decade or two, Mantel has made a name for herself — no other way to put it — as one of the indispensable writers of fiction in English.” That description itself provides a very good reason to try anything Ms. Mantel pens. But the bonus for reading this particular book — it is actually a superb and eclectic mix of stories to enjoy. ~ Lisa Christie

10161216Mr. Churchill’s Secretary: Maggie Hope Mystery #1 by Susan Elia MacNeal (2012) – If you’re a fan of the Maisie Dobbs‘ series by author Jacqueline Winspear, this book is for you.  Set in London in 1940, readers join brainy Maggie Hope who is working below her pay grade as —  you guessed it! — Winston Churchill’s Secretary. Having graduated from the top of her class at her American college with a talent for mathematics, she is under-utilized scribing speeches. However, her work in the highest level of government brings her right up against the people making history and possibly ensnared in a plot to bring  down the empire. This mystery has a little bit of everything: psychological intrigue, budding romance, a fascinating historical setting, unravelling family secrets, and a strong and admirable heroine. Highly recommended. ~Lisa Cadow

Cukoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, aka JK Rowling (2012) – This fun mystery provides an excuse to keep reading long past your bedtime. Ripped straight from today’s headlines with unemployed Iraq war veterans and tabloid gossip, this book compellingly portrays life in modern London through the eyes of two great main characters. You will so like both the main detective Cormoran Strike —  a wounded Iraq War veteran struggling to make a living as a private investigator, and his superb assistant Robin — a young woman searching for a career. You might also feel as if Ms. Rowling is lashing out a bit at her own fame, and very definitely at the culture of today’s tabloids throughout this page-turning tale.  ~ Lisa Christie

BONUS PICK – 11-22-63 by Stephen King (2011) – What would a post about thrillers/mysteries be without a Stephen King entry? Probably not very complete. New England’s favorite thriller author offers a bit of time travel with this one —  to Dallas on 11/22/6 when three shots ring out, and President Kennedy is dead. The owner of a Maine diner enlists Jake, a high school English teacher, to prevent the Kennedy assassination by taking a portal in the diner’s storeroom back to the 1960s. Finding himself in Texas, Jake begins a new life that eventually leads to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. Does he change history or not? That is a question I can not yet answer as I could not finish this page-turner in time for this post. But I look forward to finding out. Since however, this book has been described by NPR as Mr. King’s “most ambitious and accomplished”, I feel OK recommending a book I have not quite finished. ~ Lisa Christie

 

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