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Books to Scare You
These hair-raising paperbacks are not for the kiddies
The days of plastic masks are over for you.
No more Mom’s makeshift monster costumes; no more department-store, mass-produced everybody’s-wearing-its. You dress yourself on Halloween because you know you create a better costume than anybody, a fact you’re proud of.
You might know make-up, but there are scares you just can’t make up. You’ll find them in “Haunted Stuff” by Stacey Graham and “ America ’s Most Haunted” by Theresa Argie and Eric Olsen.
“America ’s Most Haunted” by Theresa Argie and Eric Olsen, c.2014, Berkeley, $16.00 / $18.00 Canada, 341 pages
Those old Halloween decorations you brought home last year are going to scare the Dickens out of the neighborhood kids. You can’t wait to put them up – but maybe you should. In “Haunted Stuff,” you’ll see why you should wait, maybe forever. Cast-off belongings, you see, could be thick with things you can’t see.
It’s fun to find a bargain, for instance, but Graham says that many second-hand items – including clothing, toys, furniture, and collectibles – may’ve had owners that are still quite attached to them. Bring the item home, she says, and you could be inviting a spirit into your house.
That could be charming… or it could be terrorizing.
“Haunted Stuff” by Stacey Graham, c.2014, Llewellyn, $15.99 / $18.50 Canada, 240 pages
Once-loved dolls, for instance, could be imbedded with the spirit of the child who played with them, but that’s not all. She includes stories of demon dolls that caused mayhem (at best) and insanity (or worse). And whatever you do, don’t think badly about those toys because, well, they’ll know.
And if you’re a brave soul and things don’t scare you, let’s see how you do with places. In “ America ’s Most Haunted,” you’ll learn about paranormal homes, hotels, and hotspots that you can actually visit.
In Ohio , you could meet a ghost from the long-ago past who may haunt in tandem with a ghost from the 1990s. In West Virginia , tour a former “lunatic asylum” that might harbor Civil War spirits. In Colorado , take a room-by-tunnel trip in a hotel where the scenery is beautiful and the screamery is boooo-tiful. In California , you can visit a ship that one Hollywood star admitted has an “otherworldly” feel about it.
What’s nice about this book is that it’s so thorough. The authors tell you where you’ll have the best likelihood of spotting or hearing something eerie; whether it can be explained by natural reasons; and phone numbers, addresses, and tips on going there to see for yourself.
Halloween: fun & games, or frights & ghouls? How about both?
I, personally, find the cover of “Haunted Stuff” to be deliciously disturbing. Happily, the inside matches the outside but beware: read it, and you’ll think twice about bargain-hunting, forever.
And if a good old-fashioned ghost story completes your Halloween, then “ America ’s Most Haunted” is your (spooky) book. Just remember, as you’re reading: it’s all chillingly true!
Bear in mind that these hair-raising paperbacks are not for the kiddies; in fact, the cover of one of them is nightmarish. “Haunted Stuff” and “America’s Most Haunted” are great to have, but be sure to keep them out of little hands because sometimes, Halloween isn’t for kids – and neither are these books.
Book Review: ‘Leaving Time’
Clear your calendar
A good mother loves her child unconditionally.
She cares for her little one, making sure the baby is dry, safe, and comforted. She feeds her child and tends to him, no matter what time of day or night.
You can add to this list at will, because we all know what a good mother does. But, as in the new book “Leaving Time” by Jodi Picoult, a good mother does not abandon her child.
Thirteen-year-old Jenna Metcalf had a routine that she kept every morning: she got dressed and logged on to the Department of Justice website to see if her mother had been found yet.
A decade before, after one of the caretakers at their elephant sanctuary was trampled by accident, Jenna’s mother, Alice, was found nearby, unconscious, and was taken to the hospital. When she regained her wits, Alice bolted from the building and disappeared.
It haunted Jenna ever since.
What kind of mother abandons her little daughter? Was Alice hurt or killed? That was something Jenna absolutely needed to know – and so, old enough to have saved money from babysitting and birthday gifts, she hired a psychic and a detective.
Once upon a time, Virgil Stanhope was proud of his career.
He’d been one of the lead detectives on the death of the elephant caretaker and the disappearance of Alice Metcalf – but he was having second thoughts. He knew back then that he’d done a hack job. Why hadn’t he dug further into this case?
It had been a long time since The Dead had spoken to Serenity Jones, and she missed it. Ever since a brash, egotistical mistake ruined her TV career, she couldn’t get a human to talk to her, much less a spirit. So when Jenna showed up on Serenity’s doorstep, asking for help, and messages began whispering in Serenity’s head, what could the seer do but listen?
For most of her life, Alice Metcalf was devoted to the study of elephants. They were fascinating to her, and the ultimate reason her life had turned out as it had. She saw so many parallels between pachyderms and humans: love, joy, grief.
Got a calendar?
Clear it. Cancel your plans. Once you’ve got “Leaving Time” in your hands, you won’t want to do anything but spend time with this book.
Through the voices of four main characters, author Jodi Picoult gives readers the kind of novel they’ve come to expect, but with a twist: there’s some mystery in this book. We aren’t sure what happened to Alice , if she’s a killer, a victim, or something else. That keeps-you-guessing factor appears in every Picoult novel, but in this book, it’ll make you page back to see how you didn’t catch the clues and to marvel at where you went in the meantime.
And I’m going to stop there. I can’t bear to ruin your enjoyment of unwrapping the layers in this excellent book. Just know that if you’ve got “Leaving Time,” you’ll only want everyone to leave you alone to read.
Book Review: ‘The Language of Houses’
Houses speak of gender, status, and age of their occupants.
“The Language of Houses: How Buildings Speak to Us” by Alison Lurie, c.2014, Delphinium Books, $24.95, 311 pages.
The building must be nearly done.
Every day for months, you’ve seen it on your way to work. You’ve watched it go from a hole in the ground, to a steel skeleton, to a behemoth structure that you’re glad you’ll never have to enter. The whole place seems unwelcoming.
But why? Why get the heebie-jeebies over a building? In the new book “The Language of Houses” by Alison Lurie, you’ll see how that place and your home both have a lot to say.
Ask any preschooler to draw a house and, if she’s happy and secure, you’ll probably get “Happy House” with peaked roof, a door in the lower middle and symmetrical windows, surrounded by trees and a smiling sun. Yes, even at that age, we tend to instinctively link a simple home with good feelings.
We also instinctively know what a building is for, just by looking at it. There’s no mistaking a hospital, for instance, with a night club. A public building constructed of wood “is slightly suspect unless it’s a church.” Huge stone columns generally indicate that we’re entering somewhere formal (real or imagined), just as a porch swing and flowers (even artificial ones) say “welcome.”
A building’s color says a lot, too: like business clothes, public buildings are usually neutrally-toned. Colors can indicate an intended décor or the kind of merchandise you’ll find in a store. Even lack of color speaks volumes about the people inside.
As for that interior, we expect it to match the exterior. In our minds, therefore, Victorian charmers shouldn’t contain post-modern furniture. Ranch homes, once the most popular builds, should be cozy and relaxed. It feels wrong to find otherwise.
On that note, consider this: many newly-built houses contain rooms that are rarely, if ever, used. Or this: when you were a kid, you were likely familiar with your friends’ bedrooms. That’s probably not the case now.
Houses speak of gender, status, and age of their occupants. They can speak with local dialect or foreign accents. And despite that they’re inanimate objects, we fondly remember some and mourn others – and that’s natural.
“After all,” says Lurie, “we are a territorial species.”
When you think about it, what’s in “The Language of Houses” is quite commonsensical. And maybe that’s the point: author Alison Lurie makes you think about your home, your workplace, and what the outside world knows from them.
Indeed, after reading this book, it’s really very difficult not to look at buildings in a different way – and that includes churches, prisons, hospitals, and schools, all of which Lurie touches upon here. You’ll also learn about the things inside our buildings, why we place furniture as we do, what specific rooms say about who we think we are, and a basic history of housing and fads.
If you enjoy decorating, this book will build on your knowledge. Architecture fans will demolish it, as will historians. Readers in the mood for something different will also love “The Language of Houses.” Don’t you have room for it, too?
Book Review: ‘A Cup of Water Under My Bed’
Sometimes what you don’t see is better than what you do see
Good question – and once you learned that you can determine the answer by taking things apart, well, nothing was safe. The hidden parts, an object’s guts, were always more complicated and more interesting than what was on the outside.
Isn’t life like that: what you don’t see is sometimes better than what you do? Unraveling her story for examination in “A Cup of Water Under My Bed,” author Daisy Hernández, lets us find out.
Until she was in kindergarten, Daisy Hernández’s entire world sat in Union City , New Jersey . Her parents, her Cuban father and Colombian mother, spoke only Spanish at home – although Hernández learned a smattering of English here and there; more, once she was sent to Catholic school.
English always held a certain fascination for her but Hernández’s three tías insisted she keep up with her Spanish, which she resented. There were words that didn’t translate easily from English to her parents’ language, so there were things she couldn’t share with her elders. To “make that leap… to leave for another language hurts.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, when she told her father that she wanted to be a writer, he told her she’d “gone crazy.” Still, Hernández pursued her dream, maybe because storytelling was in her blood: her Mami loved sharing tales of her own immigration from Colombia , how she’d heard that money grew on trees but, instead of finding cash on the ground like leaves, she’d had to find a factory job.
Such stories of strength in her mostly-female household gave Hernández a map of life and relationships. She learned about men and whom to marry, disappointing her Mami and tías with her first Colombian boyfriend. American boys, they told her, were better because “Anything made in America works” but, at seventeen, Hernández was sure she was in love.
That Colombian boy taught her a lot about sex. So did a feminist body-awareness class she took early in her college career, which was where she suddenly understood a long-held feeling that, once articulated, would hurt her mother and cause a rift with her favorite auntie.
“I love kissing boys,” Hernández says, “but a girl. I could kiss a girl.”
My first impression of “A Cup of Water Under My Bed” led to heavy sighing. It starts with a dismaying tale of invisibility and poverty, which made me think I had another pity-party memoir in my hands.
Ach, I was wrong.
With wit and respectful grace, author Daisy Hernández shares stories of love for family, of strong (despite herself) roots, and of assimilation and claiming who you are without losing who you were.
These tales are sprinkled, essay style, with powerful anecdotes of self-discovery that I couldn’t get enough of. I also enjoyed the unwavering tone that Hernández takes, speaking her truth, firmly, no arguments.
That no-nonsense attitude mixes nicely with quiet humor and familial devotion to make this a don’t-miss for memoir fans. And if that’s you, then have “A Cup of Water Under My Bed.” You’ll like what’s inside.
Book Review: ‘Skink – No Surrender’ by Carl Hiaasen
Yeah, you learned the truth about the Jolly Old Elf years ago
Sorry to say, but know all about Santa.
Yeah, you learned the truth about the Jolly Old Elf years ago, but you let your younger sibs believe. Same with the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy: get past grade school and you’re a little old for that stuff. So if, in the new book “Skink – No Surrender” by Carl Hiaasen, fourteen-year-old Richard Sloan said he met a one-eyed, bearded, beak-wearing man-bear on a Florida beach, who’d believe him?
Malley was almost never late.
It’s true that she was a rebel and gave her parents plenty of grief, but late? No, Richard Sloan knew his cousin Mal hated tardiness, which is why he was surprised when she didn’t show up on their nightly turtle nest hunt.
Figuring that Malley was grounded (again), Richard decided to scout for egg-laying loggerheads anyhow. He was sitting next to a turtle nest when he saw a drinking straw poking out of the ground – right before the sand exploded and a gigantic man burst from the beach, scaring the daylights out of Richard.
The guy was well over six feet tall, with different colored eyes pointing in different directions. He was wearing an ancient army jacket, camo pants, and vulture beaks tied in his long, scraggly beard. When he said his name was Clint Tyree, Richard couldn’t wait to Google it.
It turned out that Clint Tyree, college football star and Vietnam vet, had somehow gotten elected to the Florida governor’s office years ago. Halfway through his term, he disappeared. Rumors said he lived in the wilderness as a hermit called Skink; one post said Skink was dead, but Richard knew that wasn’t true.
He’d met Clint “Skink” Tyree. And Skink knew where Malley was.
She’d lied to her parents when she said she was leaving early for boarding school, and had instead run away with a man with a strange alias. But now there was trouble, few clues to her whereabouts, and a lot of places to hide in Florida ’s Gulf Coast . Riding with Skink in a plain gray car heading north, Richard hoped the governor knew all that.
And he hoped they weren’t too late…
So you’ve known the truth about Santa for a few years: the dude doesn’t exist. It’s a fact, but after reading this book you’ll wish that Skink did. I mean, what can you say about an old guy who eats road kill, barely bathes, is moral and kind, but hates trouble?
“Weirdly addictive.” That’s what you can say because author Carl Hiaasen’s main man – here in a teen novel for the first time – is someone you can’t resist. Indeed, the title character in “Skink – No Surrender” is outrageously, appealingly wild and the story is rompish with a surprisingly keen element of suspense, which will keep readers laughing and turning pages.
Adult fans of Skink will run to find this book, but it’s mostly meant for readers age 14 and up. Still, you know you want it because “Skink – No Surrender” will make you say ho-ho-ho.
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