August Book of the Month: The Body

It’s felt like a month since I’ve posted a blog post, and at this point, probably has been a month instead of a couple of weeks. I think with my schedule now I’m going to post every other week. I’ll still have my book of the month series of blogs; however, I’m finding my Youtube ideas much more appealing to me than blog posts. (If you didn’t already know, I have a YouTube channel!)

For August I read The Body by Stephen King. It is the second book I can say I’ve ever finished after seeing the movie version beforehand. (The first was Alice in Wonderland, because really, who escapes Disney’s grip as a child in the 90’s?) Nonetheless, that means there will be a bit of comparison between the book and movie in here. I haven’t seen the movie in several years, but it was one of the classics I’d watch when I grew up.

It was a rather short book, which took me longer than I anticipated to read considering I finished it on the last day of the month. I read it between doctor’s appointments and a visit to the beach. When I got deeper into the story, it was easier to binge-read. The entire time I kept forgetting which character had which exclusive trait, mainly due to my stop and go reading in the beginning.

Gordie, our main character, looks back to the event of finding the body with his friends, Chris, Vern, and Teddy. That much I remembered from the movie, besides the leeches scene. I’ve never swum in any unidentifiable water because of that scene burning into my mind from a young age.

Something that the book included that I found was interesting was Gordie’s written stories. There were two: Stud City, and The Revenge of Lard-ass Hogan. They were included as if the character wrote them, and I found that stylistic choice a refreshing break of regular narrative form. I wasn’t entirely a fan of Stud City, and to be honest, I skimmed over it after the first few pages. Gordie didn’t like it either when he reflected on it, so it seemed to work (for me, at least) in a meta sort of way. Lard-ass’ story, one of the other sequences I remember from the movie, was highly entertaining to read. I love a good revenge story, and to a point, gross-out humor is funny to me.

Another scene left out of my memory (that I doubt was in the movie) was Gordie’s nightmare. The whole metaphorical weight of it paired with Chris’ speech to him was a chilling reminder of his future and the future of his friends. It was like the harsh reality that not everyone succeeds and not all childhood groups stay together forever.

I was invested in the characters, mainly Gordie and Chris, and when they came across the older brother and his friends, I was genuinely worried. Something the movie didn’t leave in my mind was Gordie’s entrancement from Ray Brower’s body. The absolute detail of the body and its state in nature was something hypnotizing, effectively drawing the reader in like how Gordie was drawn in.

Overall, I enjoyed The Body. It was a solid, short read. I’d give it 4/5 stars. I think if I hadn’t seen the movie years prior I would’ve liked it more, especially with the ability to have been surprised by the twists. September’s book of the month is Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. I’ve come to terms with my inability to read between/before classes because I now know my classmates and like to talk to them, so now I read half an hour before bed. That blog post will adhere to the new every-other-week schedule.

Failing Camp NaNoWriMo and Book of the Month

If you’re someone who follows my blog, by now you may have noticed my blog posting schedule has been off kilter. Reflectively, this past month has been one of my most difficult in a while, even compared to both semesters I had 4 classes (20 credit hours) at once. My classes have been almost entirely group projects, which anyone who’s had to participate in them knows the hell that is working with several people at once, especially creative ones who often lack strength in areas besides creativity.

Organizing a film and getting it done is crazy, and for people who work in that industry I cannot begin to understand the patience they have, and that I have none of. Due to all of these school shenanigans and mental health episodes triggered by them, I was unable to finish both main goals I had for the month.

Camp NaNoWriMo, as always, started off great. I was ahead of the minimum for a while, until I decided to change the midpoint. Why did I change the midpoint right when I was getting to the midpoint? I honestly don’t know why it took me that long to realize it didn’t work, but if I hadn’t changed it, I probably would’ve been able to continue at the rate I was going at. I wound up stopping at page 45. I need to finish it, but I think I’ll wait for a little while before I do. I still need to reconstruct the outline.

For July’s Book of the Month, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, I am also about halfway through it, at 164 pages of 369 pages. This is the first time where I haven’t been able to finish a book in the month yet still want to read it. So for that, I plan on binge reading as much as I can in the next couple of days to get it done and perhaps make a delayed post about that. It’s a different type of book than I usually read, but I’m enjoying it. That factor just makes it a little slower of a read, but still an enjoyable one.

I can’t speak for August’s Book of the Month yet, but it’s going to be a shorter one. Is that cheating? I wouldn’t say so. I still get to read a book in a month, at least. I’m thinking of one of my new Stephen King books.

June Book of the Month

June’s book of the month was Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake. Blake has become a substantial author in young adult fiction, especially with her current series Three Dark Crowns. I was surprised to see the range of genres from horror to fantasy, and also comforted by the fact authors can reign free and not necessarily get locked into one, and still be successful. Anna Dressed in Blood was her debut novel, and it was encouraging to see that ghost stories are still popular, and popular enough to get picked up as someone’s debut. I love ghosts, probably a little too much, but at least not as much as Cas. I gave this book a full five out of five stars.

Anna Dressed in Blood is about Cas Lowood, a fresh, young ghost hunter who picked up his father’s ghost-killing athame after his father was killed by a vicious spirit. He moves from town to town with his Mom to get rid of local haunts. He moves to Thunder Bay to hunt down a notorious ghost, who has gained the title “Anna Dressed In Blood.” In his pursuits of hunting her, he befriends a local mind-reading witch Thomas, along with the most popular kids in school: Carmel, the queen bee who is actually a decent person, Mike, her dumb jock ex-boyfriend, and Will, the jock’s sidekick who’s got just as much intelligence as he has kick in him.

The characters were easily my favorite part of the book. Each one seemed like someone I would’ve met in high school, and even though Cas stereotyped them in the beginning, they each became more than just a character type. Even Anna, dead and from another time, showed significant wit and character beyond just being a dead girl. At certain points different characters went against their own personalities, usually for superficial reasons, but at no point did any of it feel fake. Kendare Blake knows her audience well, and has a strong grip on the voice of teenagers. I found myself laughing out loud from Cas’ remarks throughout the book, like his constant insistence that he’s not one of the Ghostbusters and rejecting the idea of teaming up to become a ghost fighting group. Even the adults were entertaining and well fleshed out despite their limited appearances.

The plot of the story was tightly woven, and where there were some gaps of knowledge, I’m certain they’ll be answered in the second book. How do I know that? Passing details that didn’t seem significant wound up being monstrously important throughout the ending, and everything that Cas set out to do was solved but left with different cliffhangers. Naturally, he can’t accomplish everything the way he had planned, but even the cliffhangers were tight and gave a solid idea of where the series would head afterward. Every piece of information given was used and transformed as the story went on. Even the hitchhiker from chapter one is referred to later.

Overall, this is one of my favorite books. I’m glad I accidentally bought the sequel first; if I had it with me for the start of July, I’d easily make Girl of Nightmares my July book of the month. Unfortunately, I could only haul so many books with me when moving, so it’ll be on its way when my mom comes to visit about halfway through the month. So in the meantime, the sequel will have to wait another month before I can get to it. Instead, July’s book of the month will be The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. I haven’t read a historical fiction book yet, and I’m interested to see how I enjoy it.

May Book of the Month

May’s book of the month was Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I like to switch between books made more recently and books made long before I was born, so this month’s book falls into the latter category. This is one of those books that high school teachers like to assign for reading. However, I was never in any of the classes that got to read this. Maybe it’s due to no somber recollection to being forced to read pages for homework, but I really enjoyed this book. I’d give it a four out of five stars.

I can see the roots of more current dystopian books well within this one. Hunger Games, Divergent, even bits of the Maze Runner and The Giver. (We had to read The Giver in my seventh-grade class. I feel like I would’ve liked it more if I read it in my free time.) Even though most of the protagonists are young adults or children in these more modern books, Montag still shares some of the themes that these children do. His life goes through some drastic change where he’s forced to question existence, meets an idealistic young friend who opens his eyes to something new, and simultaneously is punished for his new thoughts brought on by the external influence. He is then by an older figure —Faber in this case— on how to try to make the world change.

Montag doesn’t change the world, and I think that’s why I enjoyed the book so much. It doesn’t give the false sense of security in completely redefining a world for it to wind up better. Many of the young adult dystopian wind up with some bittersweet end where some bad does come, but there is still something gained by their journey. Montag’s journey winds up only saving himself and none of the people he cares about. It might be the bits of nihilism in me, but it’s refreshing to know there are books with some neutral, not necessarily even moralistically bad endings.

The rag-tag team of prior teachers and scholars were the most interesting paid-off twist that Montag encountered. If the novel were written in the current times, it would’ve produced a series of at least two or three more books afterward, but it ends poignantly, with a small glimmer of hope. I encountered now one of my favorite quotes from this book, spoken by Granger, one of the scholars and living books:

Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.

It’s interesting to read the introduction, which in my edition is Neil Gaiman from 2013, to find how startlingly applicable the themes from the book are today. If only 2013 Neil Gaiman or 1953 Ray Bradbury knew what was to become the future.

Speaking of the future, June’s book of the month will be Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake. I’ve meant to read this book since I graduated high school, so I might as well finish it before it comes times to graduate college!

April Book of the Month

April’s book of the month was Children of Eden by Joey Graceffa. I’ve been following Joey’s YouTube channel since around 2014, so I was more than excited to add his first foray into the world of fiction to my read list. I’ve been sitting on this book for quite some time now, and I decided enough was enough: time to pick up another dystopian novel. Because I’ve been following Joey for so long, I was able to pick up on aspects of the story that I wish I hadn’t. As much as I enjoy Joey’s content on YouTube, I have to say that I was partially let down by his novel. I’d give it 3/5 stars.

Children of Eden follows Rowan, a secret second-child who grew up hiding away in her home in a society with a one-child policy. The society is fairly advanced with eye scanning technology that can verify the identity of the person based upon the surgical lenses that are implanted in the official citizens. Rowan’s well-off family tries to get her an illegal pair of lenses that function well enough to give her another identity, but things go wrong, and she’s launched into a life or death scramble to find safety in a world where second children are sought to be eliminated. She tries to find safety between other second children and her brother’s friend, Lark.

The first thing I noticed reading this was Joey’s writing style. There were moments of beautiful description, but I found the majority of his style uninviting. There are adverbs everywhere. If I had a dollar for every adverb, I’d be able to pay rent for the next two months at the least. To be fair, the reason I’m noting it with distaste is due to Stephen King’s writing advice in On Writing, which I agree with for the most part. An adverb here or there isn’t too distracting, but they’re everywhere and take away from the power of proper word choice. Another thing Joey does is tell repeatedly instead of showing what’s happening. There are only two times I can remember this choice making sense within the story, and the majority of the other ones (I lost count) can be solved by just having Rowan say whatever Joey’s telling us she said. Also knowing Joey’s past of having not getting into a college writing program, I recognize that he likely wouldn’t have known this almost universal lesson. It still detracts from the quality of the novel, however.

The other part of Joey’s style that irks me is how clear his agenda is behind writing the novel. He criticizes the human race’s destroying of the land and its resources —which to some extent is good, we are destroying the planet— but it’s so blatantly pointed in the way he pins it to Rowan it doesn’t make sense. A girl who has never escaped her house and has only read about the past have such a strong opinion of a world she isn’t connected to doesn’t make sense. At points, she becomes a mouthpiece for his views, like one moment when she criticizes humans having previously eaten animals. (Again, why would she care? She’s never seen an animal. Maybe it’s for that reason; since they’ve been wiped out and she can’t see any? Weak motivation, but that’s as far as I’ll buy into it.) If you don’t know much about Joey, he’s a passionate vegan, and in a more recent video, he told (his boyfriend) Daniel’s nephew that meat was bad. Sigh.

This immaturity of Joey’s transfers to Rowan, who acts younger than her age at some points. She’ll lash out at random times and remain calm when it would make more sense to lash out. Rowan’s character isn’t focused, and I never knew what to expect from her. I wound up finding the characters surrounding her —Lark, Lachlan, and even Rook— more interesting and developed. The side characters seem to have more clear motivations and defining for the majority of the book until Rowan has to step up and take some kind of control of her destiny. It was a little late in the book, but when she does start to step up, I found the story a lot easier to read.

At this point, it sounds like I have more bad things to say than good, but I did wind up liking the story in the end. I never found myself wanting to shelf it, but it was a bit forced in the beginning. I couldn’t figure out what was the inciting moment or reason why it was that point in Rowan’s life that things would change besides some details after she explores the world outside her home. The world kept me involved as more pieces started coming together about their form of government is shady and the different groups that are joining together that disagree with it. Even the way fashion works to identify where different people are from in the rings and even what schools the children go to.

Something else that Joey did that I found to be pleasant surprises was the little details to the characters that I don’t find in many other places. I haven’t read any other books where a character in the main cast, Lark, has seizures. Additionally, Rowan’s brother Ash has asthma, which even plays into the desperation of one scene later on in the book. I wouldn’t be the judge on how accurately he depicted these conditions or not, but it’s nice to see some attempt at diversity from the usual straight, able-bodied main characters that riddle most popular fiction. Rowan is also depicted as bi/pansexual with interests in both Lark and Lachlan, using the trope of the love triangle but twisting it. Initially, I was annoyed by this addition, until I recognized that Rowan has only grown up with her family, where she likely would associate a kiss as a form of appreciation or affection. Maybe that’s me reading into the situation too much, but I believe it validates the inclusion of the love triangle. Lark and Lachlan seem to be more confused by the act than Rowan is.

I already own the sequel, Elites of Eden, which I would’ve pursued getting even if I hadn’t had it already. My main interest in the book is in its world and what would become of it if the (spoiler-revealing) plans went through, along with the twist ending. I didn’t expect to be left on such a cliffhanger that gave me a pleasant surprise, but I look forward to reading the second book. As much as I found the book a pleasant read, it’s still clear to me that it was likely published due to Joey’s millions of fans willing to buy it. There’s a couple of editing errors as well throughout that stood out, but only one made me struggle to understand what was happening. For now, I’m going to let Children of Eden sit aside so I can focus on a book that has a more substance to it. For May’s book of the month, I’m reading Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

March Book of the Month: Survive the Night

My book of the month for March was Survive the Night by Danielle Vega. As much as I love the horror genre, I was surprised to realize that this was the first official book I’ve read in the genre. I’ve watched more horror movies than I can think of, but I was shocked that it took me this long to read something in the current genre. (Besides Carmilla, I suppose, if you count that as horror.) Overall, I found the book incredibly enjoyable and I was able to finish the last hundred or so pages in one sitting because I was so invested. (I usually read between my classes, therefore, multiple sittings. I read outside of my class time for a lot of this book.)

I immediately related to the main character, Casey. Although, that’s likely just a coincidence. She had dislocated her kneecap playing soccer, and from being active, meanwhile, I dislocated mine walking energetically in gym class. However, unlike her, she became addicted to her pain medication, and we are introduced to her as she’s coming home from rehab.

I only have a few aspects of this book I had some critique on, and the first act was so long it almost made me flip ahead to check if anything juicy happened sooner. I was eager for the horror. The information delivered, while important, took up slightly over four chapters of the book before we got to the promise of the premise, surviving the night. At the very least, getting to the actual club and the first hint of horror.

Another aspect I didn’t enjoy that also occurred throughout the first portions was Casey’s fixation on her ex-boyfriend. At first, it seemed a little below her character to be so focused on him for his sort of approval but looking back I’m more lenient on it after certain revelations. I suppose you could say his love was one of the drugs she had been addicted to in a way. His character confuses me a bit as we find out more about him, along with his involvement with Shana.

Once they finally get to Survive the Night, the exclusive club that they had to get a homeless man’s help to find, the fun begins. Well, the deaths do at least. And that’s what we’re here for in horror. Or I am, at least. The promised premise certainly delivers, and it amps up to the point I kept wondering what could happen next. Usually I’m able to generally guess where a plot is going, and this one kept me fresh and engaged the entire time. The stakes were eternally high throughout the book.

While the ending tied up the majority of the plot points with grace, I guessed the mysterious insinuation it leaves you with from when I read the synopsis. It almost reminded me of the movie Shrooms. However, it left enough threads throughout the narrative to be able to make your own conclusion while further heightening the events that happened. I’m trying not to spoil much with this, so I won’t say here what I think happened. I plan on making a video about that with a spoiler-filled review on a new YouTube channel I’m making. I’ll post the link on here when I do.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Survive the Night. I’d give it a 4.5 out of 5 stars. Besides the few minor grievances, I think it’s safe to say this is one of my more recent favorites. It also makes me interested in reading Danielle Vega’s series The Merciless. I loved her style throughout the book. I don’t own The Merciless so it won’t be the next book of the month. I think I’m going to go for a sci-fi approach and read Children of Eden by Joey Graceffa. I’ve had this book for a little over a year now, and I should get down to reading it.

February Book of the Month: Cat’s Cradle

February’s book of the month was Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. Seeing as this post is before the month is over, that means one of two things: 1. I finished early in this short month. 2. There’s no way I can finish this book for the month. Want to take a guess at what happened? If you guessed option number 2, you would be correct. Looking back on the past month, I can see exactly where my mistakes were in not being able to finish the book.

First off, I’ve already read the book. And I wasn’t crazy about it. Granted, it was in tenth grade, but I thought maybe now that my novel palette has adapted that I might be able to appreciate it more. I realized I enjoyed the narrative style more. It still didn’t save my lack of interest in the plot. I’m not someone who rereads books often, but I thought I’d challenge myself to see if I could. The only book I’ve ever reread was the Alice in Wonderland series compiled into one book. So, the odds of liking it by looking at it with some rested eyes were not in my favor.

On top of that, I didn’t have much time to read. The time in which I usually read, before and between classes, I have spent talking with my classmates that I have gotten to know better. I have also learned that having the physical book in front of me doesn’t entirely matter; the determined will get my attention because I don’t want to be rude and shoot them down. That means usually sitting through many pictures of dogs that have about a 50/50 shot of being cute, and being asked about my legendary cat Tai who passed away two years ago that I still feel the sting of loss from, on a nearly every-other-day basis. So by the end of the conversation —if I am graced with any time to myself— I’ve lost the desire to read.

In addition to my typical reading times being skewered, I also participated in a pilot pitch competition for a collaborative learning class (CLC). I had to write, edit, and then pitch what became a 24 page, single-cam comedy. In order to be able to focus exclusively on the pitch, I had to first finish the first draft to a book I started last year. That was awesome! Also very time consuming. Once I was done that I was able to focus more on the script which left me about a week to beat out, write, edit, plan the pitch, edit the pitch, and then finally pitch. So it’s been an unexpectedly busy month. I decided to participate on a whim for the experience of pitching and for the chance I might get into the CLC class to edit the script and film a pilot. They haven’t announced the winners yet, but I know at the very least I’m proud of what I accomplished in that time alone.

Next month I have Spring break. I plan on doing the third draft for my work in progress novel What Darkness Does, and so besides working on that, my schedule is clear. Finishing a book in that time should be fairly easy to do. Therefore, I’m going to choose something a little longer than what I might usually pick up. Looking at the stack of books in front of me, that’s looking like Danielle Vega’s Survive the Night or Joey Graceffa’s Children of Eden.