Friday, September 4, 2015

Book Review | A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

A Head Full of Ghosts is a horror novel from Paul Tremblay.

The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.

To her parents' despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie's descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts' plight. With John, Marjorie's father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family agrees to be filmed, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.

Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie's younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface--and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.

I really enjoyed A Head Full of Ghosts. It's part creepy possession horror / part psychological thriller, and it's all very meta. The story is being recounted many years later by Merry, one of the sisters involved in the possession, in a personal interview as well as through a series of the Merry's pseudonymous blog posts that are reviewing the reality show that documented the possession. Did I lose you? Amazingly enough, the book does a great job of making it work. I found myself forgetting about the blog entirely until it popped back up again.

It got even more meta once you realized the blog commentary was basically the book criticizing the tropes in it's own story.

But meta stuff aside, there was some horror going on worth reading. Whatever was actually happening with this family, one thing is for sure - it was creepy.

By the end of A Head Full of Ghosts, there were so many questions as to what was really going on that I got a little bored. And a little annoyed.

But! It was still a fun read and one that I would recommend to others.

7/10: Recommended Read

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Book Review | All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

All Quiet on the Western Front is a classic novel from Erich Maria Remarque.

Book Description

This is the testament of Paul Bäumer, who enlists with his classmates in the German army of World War I. These young men become enthusiastic soldiers, but their world of duty, culture, and progress breaks into pieces under the first bombardment in the trenches.

Through years of vivid horror, Paul holds fast to a single vow: to fight against the hatred that meaninglessly pits young men of the same generation but different uniforms against one another... if only he can come out of the war alive.

The real reason I read All Quiet on the Western Front was to listen to Frank Muller’s narration, but it turned out to be a beautifully written, thought-provoking novel.

It’s a war novel, but it’s not about the war. It’s about its effects on the men who go to war.

“This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by the war.”

I feel quite devastated by All Quiet on the Western Front, really. A great book leaves an impact, and there are definitely scenes in this one that will remain with me always. It’s a remarkable read.

“We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces.”

If you’re into audiobooks, I highly recommend the audio version. Frank Muller was an exceptional narrator.

8/10: Great Read

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Monday, August 31, 2015

Back to School | Currently Reading

I hope everyone had an amazing summer. 

I haven't managed to blog one single summer since I started Book Den. Every year I'm avidly reading through the spring and I think there's no way I'm slowing down once summer hits, but as soon as it does... I disappear. Every time. The weather warms up, the days get long, I am nowhere near a computer when I'm not at work.

I didn't read much this summer, either.

These are the books I read while I was away:

 Wilder Boys by Brandon Wallace  The Bear Who Wouldn't Leave by J.H. Moncrieff  The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
 Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie  The Border by Robert McCammon The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

I wish I had waited until the fall to read The Border, but I wasn't strong enough to resist. I hate that McCammon's books are always released in May. I think a lot of books are released in preparation of summer reading, but I'm just not a summer reader. I hear the term "beach read" a lot, but the last thing I want to do on the beach is read.

Peter Pan was one of the books I read with my kids over the summer. I'm really, really enjoying reading books to them that I missed out on as a kid (as well as revisiting old favorites!) They read some things on their own a bit through the summer, but they are a lot like me when the sun is shining.

Now that we are back to school and "summer" is over, it's like a switch has been flipped. We are all back to reading again. It's a weird thing.

I've decided from now on Book Den will go on hiatus for the summers. I used to stress about it during the summer knowing I should be posting and keeping up with what's going on with everyone. This summer I was realistic and when my blog entered my mind, I just gave some thought to what I wanted to do once I returned. It was nice to have some time to gain a little clarity.

Now I have some catching up to do!

I'm currently reading All Quiet on the Western Front and Charlotte's Web. The last time I read Charlotte's Web with my kids, they baled on me, but my 8 year old picked it to read this week. I'm steeling myself for all of the crying I'm going to have to try not to do. If you haven't yet read Charlotte's Web, it is definitely something to experience.

 All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

And that's where I'm at. I'm looking forward to fall and everything that it brings.

I'd love to hear how your summer went and what you've been reading. Let me know in the comments or leave me a link if it's on your blog!

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Book Review | The Princess Bride by William Goldman

The Princess Bride is a fantasy novel by William Goldman.

What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be...well...a lot less than the man of her dreams?

As a boy, William Goldman claims, he loved to hear his father read the S. Morgenstern classic, The Princess Bride. But as a grown-up he discovered that the boring parts were left out of good old Dad's recitation, and only the "good parts" reached his ears.

Now Goldman does Dad one better. He's reconstructed the "Good Parts Version" to delight wise kids and wide-eyed grownups everywhere.

What's it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles, and a Little Sex.

In short, it's about everything.


I will say right away I’m a huge fan of the movie, but this fact almost kept me from reading the book at all. I’m a fearful reader at times. I’m afraid to reread a beloved book and have my opinion change. I’m afraid to read a book if I really loved the movie for fear I will see the movie differently. I’m afraid to read The Neverending Story and find out what Bastian’s mother’s name is because all of my life I’ve tried to figure out what on earth that kid has been screaming out of that window and the mystery is now part of my DNA. (Please don’t spoil it for me, either.)

This past week, however, something finally possessed me to read The Princess Bride. It’s one of the best reading decisions I have ever made.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman is a phenomenal book. It’s the story of William Goldman writing an abridged version (the version his father would recite to him as a child) of S. Morgenstern’s The Princess Bride. There are so many layers to this book, and I was really blown away by the whole thing.

There are subtle differences between the book and the movie. William Goldman is no Fred Savage and his dad is not at all like Grandpa. Like any movie adaptation, there are many things left out entirely so my heart is now overflowing with a greater knowledge and understanding. I now know how Domingo Montoya, father to Inigo Montoya, died. I now know why Miracle Max wants Prince Humperdinck’s ultimate suffering. I now understand Prince Humperdinck is a much bigger dick than I previously thought.

And THE FEELS. My God, the feels. And it’s not just the love and the friendship and the suffering, it’s how well this book captures the emotions a reader goes through when reading a story like The Princess Bride. I had serious emotions about the emotions. It’s all very meta, and did I mention brilliant?

If you are already a fan of the movie, you really owe it to yourself to read the book. Regardless of whether you’ve seen the movie or not, The Princess Bride is a fantasy classic I highly, highly recommend you read.

This is the part where you, my friends, say “As you wish”.

10/10: Awesome Read

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