Best Books 2013 — Goodreads Choice Awards


Fiction

And the Mountains Echoed

Mystery & Thriller

Inferno (Robert Langdon, #4)

Historical Fiction

Life After Life

Fantasy

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Paranormal Fantasy

Cold Days (The Dresden Files, #14)

Romance

Lover At Last (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #11)

Horror

This book was voted for by Stephen King‘s fans when he asked would they prefer a new chapter in the ” Dark  Tower” series or a sequel to the shining. They asked for this , so he wrote them both. The only book on the list that I personally read  already , Dr Sleep is the continuation of the Torrance family story , Danny Torrance , the little boy from ” The Shining”  with some brief but memorable moments with some of our old friends , both the wonderful (Dick Hallorann makes an appearance) and the terrible ( Some of our pals from the Overlook are back to rekindle some nightmares). This is a very well written and highly anticipated book that is great as a capper of the old story and as a stand alone novel. Stephen King with acknowledged help from his son , Author Joe Hill , makes this just the right amount of creepy fun. -Brie Stoll

Doctor Sleep (The Shining, #2)

Memoir & Autobiography

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

History & Biography

Jim Henson: The Biography

Nonfiction

The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum

Food & Cookbooks

Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist

Humor

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened

Graphic Novels & Comics

Beautiful Creatures: The Manga

Poetry

The Fall of Arthur

Debut Goodreads Author

Tangled (Tangled, #1)

Young Adult Fiction

Eleanor & Park

Young Adult Fantasy

Allegiant (Divergent, #3)

Middle Grade & Children’s

The House of Hades (The Heroes of Olympus, #4)

Picture Books

The Day the Crayons Quit

 

via Goodreads | Best Books 2013 — Goodreads Choice Awards.

Carrie


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Recently, a young person that I know came excitedly up to me and asked “hey, have you ever seen this movie Pulp Fiction, It’s really good”. I resisted the urge to strangle her and thought about the question instead. This person was in her early twenties and unlike me, most parents would not think that Quentin Tarantino was appropriate for a young person to watch. I think that good cinema will work on the intelligence but I have to take into account that not everyone feels as I do. That this is a “new” find for her makes sense. I did, however, draw the line at her trying to explain the plot of this movie that I love to me. Back off kid, I know this movie so well I can think of it linearly. If you get that, I love you, I really do.

This encounter did make me think about the fact that there are so many good books and movies that people have not experienced because they were not around at that time or they were not interested when it was out. So, with that in mind, I am going to do a series of reviews on some of my favorite things. Starting today with Carrie by Stephen King. It’s Halloween after all.

Carrie White is an unpleasant character. She is not likable, not really, she is one of those people that everyone either dislikes or doesn’t really know at all. She is 100 things that make this book completely unworkable, and yet it does work.

This book starts and end in uncomfortable circumstances, and is filled to the brim with uncomfortable moments. The language is rough, the characters are rough, the places are rough, the pacing is rough and no one in this book, with the exception of maybe Tommy Ross, is actually likable. You don’t really have anyone to root for in this book and yet it is one that I sat down and ate whole in one sitting.

The book is essentially about the person in every school, a person that no one likes. I don’t know why that is (I don’t know why there is a universally liked person in every school either but I digress) I just know that this person does exist. Not a person that is unpopular, that is most of every high school. Not a person that is nerdy, for the record most nerds do have friends as they tend to “club up” on one or another mutual interest. This is a person that simply no one likes. Not everyone DISLIKES this person but no one, not a single person in the school actively likes this person.

Carrie white is that person in her hometown Chamberlain and its high school. She is a pale, flabby (not fat) girl, with hair of no color (Carrie as a redhead is a work of movie magic and seems to be the thing that sticks) and a personality that is also of no color. She is ushered into womanhood by a very public and traumatic event that sets the stage for a series of cataclysmic events. The novel itself borrows a little from the style known as Gothic Novel and also and epistolary novel; written as part story, part flashbacks and part articles and fictional post cataclysm book excerpts. There are several moments where the book could turn, could flee from the inevitable horrifying events but, like life, rarely do we take those opportunities.

The characters that aid in the terrible events are Sue Snell, a pretty popular girl, her boyfriend Tommy Ross and Chris Hargensen. Chris, a pouty, pushy, bullying brat of a girl angered by her own inability to twist the system to her will is the final piece in the puzzle that makes the whole bloody mess come to a head.

As I said none of the characters are very likable, save Tommy. Sue is almost likable but I think being one of those girls, those popular girls, makes her immediately unlikable in a way. She is one of those people that everyone knows, has tons of friends but no one can tell you why. Carrie is not likable because she is so uncomfortable. Her whole life is just uncomfortable. Chis though…

Chris to me is actively awful. She is the kind of person that gets my back hairs up. King is wonderful at making these people. She is everything that should make her a good person but she is not. She has everything that she could want and wants none of it. She is popular, attractive, rich (her parents are but in high school that is the same thing) and instead of being a decent human being she uses it as a bludgeon. She knows that she is a terrible person, and cultivates it.

At the climax of this book, you just feel cold. That is not a bad thing, there are several great works that leave you feeling that way. It is the mental opposite of the warm fuzzies. In the end there is no one that you want to win. You just want to put it down and hope you have never hurt anyone for the sake of hurting them when you were too young and insecure to know better. It is one of those books that make you wonder about your own schools poor kid, or the one that carried a briefcase in third grade or whatever your outcast was like in school. What if you had made them your friend? Would a single friend, and not the last ditch Tommy Ross prom date kind of friend but an actual friend, have saved Carrie’s …

If you trace her problems, the sad simple answer is yes, probably. I have read bloggers, and writers that likened Carrie and Columbine. I think that they are wrong in that comparison, The Rage maybe but Carrie is not like Columbine. Carrie’s problems could have, potentially been solved by one friendly gesture early in the girls life.  The first part of the book, the trauma (minor spoiler) the shower and the first menstrual period could have been avoided if Carrie had one female friend in her life. That girl would have told her about periods, we always end up talking about that for some reason, and when she would have begun bleeding she would have been more prepared. Probably relived actually, getting your period at 17 for the first time would be pretty worrisome. If she had had one girl friend to tell her that, no tampons are not for lipstick blotting, and one person she could tell about Mama, she would have been saner. We are social animals and the lack of a society of any normal type was ultimately the catalyst of this cataclysm.

I guess here is where I should say the most useless thing in the world, I like this book. Useless because , it has already made its author rich, it launched one of the most prolific book writing careers in recent history and has been made and remade and remade again. It spawned sequels (bad, awful terrible sequels) and Halloween costumes, a Broadway show and cultural jokes. But I do want to say that I like this book. I don’t love this book, I like it, but I have read it six or seven times. I think it changes as you change, from the person is looking a possible future ( read to 13 or so) to a present ( read at high school) to a look behind. At each point it gives you some new thing to look at, some new thing to feel.

I like this book because it is simply a book of horror. It is a story, about a girl with a terrifying power, just as the original book proclaimed. It is also about high school. About the want to be accepted. About the people that are accepted and those who are not and why. A book about everyone you know, and no one you could ever know. That is why, while it is a work of its time it manages to continue to enchant.

How


I am stubborn to the point of self-destruction at times. I am admitting that right out. I have tried very hard not to read a single book about writing because I do not (did not) want any part of my writing to be someone else’s words or thoughts. I think that a lot of writers may do this but this is ridiculous when you think about it. I think that if your doctor said to you, “I never cracked a book, I just kept cutting people until I figured out how to stop killing them” you would flee, possibly screaming, into the street and never look back.

I know that writing and medicine are not the same animal, but the same can be said of politics. Tina Fey, who I love like good food, said that politics and prostitution are the only professions where people try to convince you of how inexperienced they are as a virtue. I think that writers can sometimes be said to feel the same. I want, basically, to be talented and not taught. The problem is that the idea is idiotic, not to put too fine a point on it. I am not saying that you can’t be good if you never get instruction but the honest to god truth is that you can’t write unless you are taught something. How to read at the very least.

I love Stephen King. I want to admit that out right, as well. I think that he is one of the great writers and never-mind the bullshit that people say about anyone and anything that is popular. I think that the man is amazing, not because his writing is amazing but because it is not. Not always anyway. There are exceptions in his writing, Under the Dome is one. Misery is another and I think that the story “The Boogeyman” is almost perfect as a short (very short) horror story. I have it on audiobook and the combination of the writing and the reading by John Glover make it something I listen to like music, and like music I can recite it by heart.  I love the characters decent into madness as he tried to explain the truth that is impossible to accept and that you as a reader have to wonder if he is just a as the character himself states “ another goofy”. Perhaps, you wonder, he is a murderer and can’t admit it , like ( spoiler alert) another character in Strawberry Spring or if he is just trying to make sense of what makes no sense; all three of his children dying before they are three. I love this story and think that it is wonderful.

So you would think that knowing that one of my favorite writers was writing a book about writing (oh my god this sentence is going to sound crazy) about writing called “On Writing” would have sent me into mad gales of happiness. I would have been standing on the corner at 8:59 am waiting for the Barnes and Nobel to open and allow me to plunk my money down to find out how he does it.  You would, as I am sure you have gleaned already, have been very wrong. I saw that book as something terrible almost, like a magician telling his secrets and not just his but everyone’s. I did not crack that book, not once and I was high-minded about it. As you know when you have decided that you are doing something because it is the “right and proper thing” you are always right, right? Yes, and that is how people become terrorists. They decide that they are perfectly legitimate in their thoughts and words to the contrary are just jealousy, lunacy or some other y.

When I knew that the creepy and amazing Chloe Grace Moretz was set to play Carrie White  and the sequel to “ The Shining”  was coming out ( all near Halloween , also) I decided to read or reread some of my favorite King novels and among the books that I found was  On Writing at my local half off book store. I bought it because it was practically free. I am a sucker for a deal. Then I laid it aside and read my other books again. It wasn’t until I was reading someone else’s book, one about goal setting, and it was mentioned that I decided that it was time to at least try the e book.

I have to say that, while I am not done with this book, almost but not quite, I could kick myself for waiting as long as I did to read it. It is not the best book on writing, I can see that, but it is genuine and genuinely written. I think the things that make this book an actual good novel as well as a decent instructional manual is that it doesn’t think that it really is either animal. It is a memoir, it says that on the cover, and it is that. It is also a bit of a novel , telling a story inside it that is one that I had personally seen without having heard it outright until now; that there is a very damaged man that wrote many of my favorite books. One that has Daddy issues, was a drunk and a drug addict, has been broke and broken several times in life and that has never gotten completely over the abandonment of his father or the death of his mother entirely.

I say that not to tax Mr. King with anything just to say that most of that is true for most people and the idea that we have to be perfect to be great is not only foolish but dangerous. I myself have been fond of saying about my sexual self that I know where all my desires come from and I have decided that I don’t care and just enjoy the orgasms. If we are waiting for perfection to do our great work we will be waiting a very long time.  I know of a woman doctor who had her children while in medical school, on purpose, and when asked why she would do such a thing when she knew how hard it would be see said simply “when would it have not been hard? When I was an intern? A new doctor? I knew I wanted kids and that I wanted to be a doctor, and that if I waited for the perfect time to do either I would do neither”. That sums it up for me.

So I am reading On Writing and while I am not gaining any burning insights so to speak I am being reminded of those things that I needed to be reminded of, and well. That writing is for writing. Not for money or fame. You write because it is what you are meant to do. That you will not always write the best but you can try to write something that you would want to read. Have a goal in mind. Even if the goal is modest, having it will help you to accomplish. I myself have allowed Steve’s own to suggestion to be mine for the start. 1000 words a day. Which is satisfied today with what you are reading. Not long and not perfect but I hope honest and entertaining.

Motivation


Stephen King, American author best known for h...

Stephen King, American author best known for his enormously popular horror novels. King was the 2003 recipient of The National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Taken at the 2007 New York Comicon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

What makes me more , what makes me try everyday to do something that is hard, something that is unexpected and to some , absolutely odd. I want to be an author more than almost anything. I don’t want much, just to be god , at least to the people whose world I create in my head and then give to you, to the world. Why would anyone want to do this?  Money? sure . I mean some of the wealthiest working artists are writers. Tom Clancy, Stephen King and James Patterson are all Millionaires many times over , J.K. Rowling  is a Billionaire and the wealthiest private citizen in Britain. But then again . Melville died a largely uncelebrated, Authors have a higher than average amount of drug , alcohol and self abuse , many of your favorite books are written by people that committed suicide. So why?

 

I don’t think  I have any choice in the matter. At times , as I have said here, there have been times when I felt disconnected to the world and only writing made me feel connected. The times when I live in my head, the times when I argue with, make love to , shoot and kill , and run and die alone , because they are all me , all the charecters , are the things that make me feel. That is … all.

 

The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling (2h)

The first non Harry Potter JK Rowling (Photo credit: Gwydion M. Williams)