Bridge to Terabithia

Happy Banned Books Week! I’ve always been a huge fan of celebrating banned books, partly to stick it to the ridiculous censorship-loving administration, but mostly because I find that the books that people don’t want you to read can often offer you the most. This book is definitely a part of that list. I absolutely LOVE it. My first experience came from the movie, but I was immediately enthralled. For the last ten years I have adored the movie and the book. It is actually one of the inspirations behind my own decision to move forward with my desire to be an author.

One of the greatest things about this novel, for me, is the fact that it points to the total liberation of mankind via the imagination. Being written in the 70’s, it was kind of published in that time when kids were first being encouraged to let their imaginations guide them through portions of their lives, and this book captures the cusp of that idea. Jess’s family and fellow students represent those who feel imagination is not something to be given in to. Jess’s parents, consistently burdened with the challenge of feeding the children and running the farm in the fragile economy they live in, can be seen as the old style of shunning imagination and things that aren’t ‘real,’ where others – Leslie in particular – represent the new and liberating views of allowing imagination its place in life.

Leslie’s introduction into Jess’s life really allows him to open up and be who he is meant to be. She doesn’t act or think like the rest of the kids, or even the adults (with the exception of Ms. Edmunds) that he is used to, and that makes him feel more free than he ever imagined. When Jess and Leslie create Terabithia I truly resonated with his description of the mythical magic of the place. He allows Leslie to bring him into this magical realm, but he still has his doubts. Many times he says that he can’t do it without Leslie, or can’t think of it the same as her. His love for Leslie and Ms. Edmunds is what allows him to embrace the creative side of his own life. After Leslie’s death Jess is obviously devastated, particularly considering the fact that his day had been spent further embracing his own love of art and imagination.

I love the way Paterson brings Jess to reality while allowing him to avoid everything involving Leslie’s death. He adamantly denies that she is gone, so much so that after he runs away and is brought home he wakes up almost completely convinced that it was all a guilt-ridden nightmare because he didn’t invite her to the museum. When he is forced to confront the fact of her death he reacts in much the way a child would, destroying memories of her in anger. Once he calms down he begins to instantly doubt himself again. The inspiration and freedom that Leslie brought him threatens to leave. When considering Terabithia he is terrified that he won’t be able to make the magic happen without Leslie, even worries that the make-believe kingdom won’t be there if he goes without her.

The fact that he is able to make the magic happen is, to me, a testament to the amazing power of love and imagination and creativity. Jess is able to keep the magic he and Leslie created, is even able to be in touch with her memory as he reflects on his friendship with her. I love that. I feel like it is a huge representation of the strength we all possess, even in the midst of a tragedy that threatens everything we hold dear.

Another thing I loved about this book is the way Paterson makes Leslie and Ms. Edmunds strong female figures who refuse to fall into the social norms. The feminist themes that offer these two strong female characters a whole other kind of freedom were both embraced and feared when this book was published (and still are today). I find it very important that there is so much emphasis on Leslie and Ms. Edmunds breaking the norms and being their own women, without holding to social construct or listening to “girls can’t do that.” It is a huge testament to the nature of the piece and its deep running themes of freedom and exceptional behavior.

Of course, this is one of the things that has lead to the book being challenged. The language and the obviously difficult ending are two others. The fact that Paterson wrote such a strong and impactful book 40 years ago, that still stands the test of time today, says a lot about the topics and her own prowess as a writer. Putting my own hatred of literary censorship aside, I find these reasons to be abhorrent for shunning such an awesome work of literature. When children can pick up a book and see that their creativity and imagination should be embraced, find out that it is OK to be different, even see someone their own age faced with and learning how to handle death, that book is a treasure. To push it out of libraries, schools and off of reading lists is a real travesty and I shudder to think there are parents out there who think otherwise.

But I’ll get off my soapbox. I don’t have many faults with this book. I would like a little more explanation of why Jess’s father doesn’t show affection to him the way he does the girls. Granted, this was 40 years ago and many people, particularly in rural America, were still under the impression that showing too much love to boys made them ‘soft,’ I think that knowledge is lost on a lot of youth and they may come away with the impression that the father is just a jerk. Which is harmful to an overall interpretation of the text, I think.

Overall, this book will always have a huge place in my heart. Aside from being a piece of YA literature that truly has the means to empower kids, it is an easy-to-read work that is educational about real-life issues. I love it. I hope you all enjoyed it as well. But what are your thoughts? Do you agree with its challenged/banned status? Tell me your thoughts! And be sure to give me your ideas for the best horror novel we can cover in October!!

Gwendy’s Button Box

This story is a perfect example of the amazing nature of King. He and Chizmar created a tale that is just phenomenal. The possibilities are endless with the concept they presented here, and I would LOVE to see it come back in a more lengthy work from either or both of them. I was excited to pick the novella up and I tore through it in a matter of hours. It was a very smooth and lively read that kept me guessing and kept me captivated.

Gwendy Peterson recieves this strange box from a strange man who seems to be something a little more than human – classic King characterization. I love that she just followed through with the situation, even though she questioned everything that was happening, she literally did the exact opposite of what she should have done when approached by a strange man who says he’s had his eye on her – right down to literally taking chocolate from a stranger. I loved seeing her questioning her actions and what is going on around her, but, like Pandora’s own secret-filled box, she can’t resist.

I liked the idea that this box, like many inanimate objects in King’s works, has a greater power over her life and over reality itself. Gwendy’s whole life is changed one small bit at a time. She starts to lose weight, she grows up to be a knockout, her parents stop drinking and those people who disrespect her seem to quickly get theirs. She pulls her levers and gets her silver dollars and her candy, and she avoids the buttons at all costs – until she doesn’t. The concept of a random strange box out there that contains the power to cause some sort of devastating natural disaster to any part of the world – or the whole thing – with just the push of a button is mesmerizing and terrifying. Gwendy handles that with a similar grain of disbelief, which leads to her pushing the red button for the first time.

I really loved the way the authors made the Jim Jones massacre a direct result of this curiosity. King is great at including actual historical events in his works, especially in the last ten years or so. She pushes the button after careful consideration, choosing a part of the world that was very sparsely populated just to see if it really did blow everything up. The next day she sees the story of Jones’ cult and its mass murder/suicide. The fact that King and Chizmar used this tragedy as a way to explain the power of the box was awesome to me, suggesting almost that the box itself had the power to make people go completely insane and do the most asinine things imaginable (an idea later supported by green teeth killing her boyfriend). I was interested in reading of Gwendy’s life after she accepted the true nature of the box. She continued to be affected by whatever power the box had, and she respected and feared it more than ever, not pushing the buttons again until she had to and even weaning herself off of the candy and trying to let the box be just a thing she rarely thought about.

I was a bit surprised at the way the book wrapped up after the box got its way, by causing the murder of the boy Gwendy loved. In regards to that event; I felt almost like it was like the box was telling her that she belonged to it as much as it to her, and it would not tolerate her indifference anymore. The boy who  had started making fun of her – whom the box sent on a terrible course in life – broke into her home and waited on her to come back. When she did Gwendy’s boyfriend fought to keep her safe until the box presented itself to the attacker. Gwendy gets to see the box that has sent her on this course be the very tool that takes her happiness from her. It definitely breaks something inside of her. I loved the fact that she used the red button to both kill the boy and make his body disappear. It was an insanely creative way to bring home the literal “this button will get you whatever you want” element. From this point on, though, I felt like the end was a bit rushed. We got some vague descriptions of Gwendy’s life and pursuits after those events, and then the man in black was there to take the box and be on his way.

I really enjoyed the story. I felt a lot of familiar vibes, with the nature of it reminding me a lot of King works like “From a Buick 8,” “11/22/63″and things in that vein. I love the idea that there are beings out there, sometimes with devices, sometimes without, who are charged with watching over the world and being the door between dimensions or timelines. That element has always fascinated me, so this story is definitely one of my new favorites.

That being said, the only real complaint I had was, as I mentioned, it was a bit short and the end came a bit quickly. I think it could have been fleshed out and become more novel-length, but at the same time it would really be a lot of the same thing if that were the case. Gwendy loves the box, it loves her, she forgets the box, it tortures her, etc… I would have liked to se what would have happened if she actually tried to get rid of it or destroy it. Would it have retaliated against her personally, killing or hurting her, or would it have gone after someone she loved because she was its designated protector? So many questions… I do think I would have gone a little more in depth in her life post box-murder, but that’s just me. I would like a few more words about what happened to her after, too. And, for that matter, how was she chosen? Who is the man who gave and took the box? Did he make the box or is he likewise charged with its protection? If it’s the latter, why does he give it to others to protect? I can ask questions all day, but the bottom line is this; the book was great, and I will remain somewhat hopeful for a related tale.

What did you guys think? Did you, like me, find yourself enthralled with the mysteries of the box and what it can do? What do you think of stories like this in general? If you have any suggestions of works in a similar vein, please share them. It’s right up my alley.

As always, make your comments on what you’d like to see and discuss next. I look forward to hearing what everyone likes to read, so it’s always fun for me! Also, in case you  haven’t been keeping up or need a reminder; I’ve returned to Wattpad! I’ve been using the free service to present a horror story that I’ve wanted to write for a while and to experiment with a noir detective fiction tale that I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback from. I’d love it if you guys would check any of my Wattpad works out. Don’t forget to comment and vote on the stories so they can be exposed to more readers. Check it all out here (https://www.wattpad.com/user/DameanMathews)

I hope you enjoyed the book, and I hope you’re enjoying the book club. If you have any other ideas for what sort of content you’d like to see on the blog, let me know about that, too! I’m here for you guys and I want to make sure you get what you need and want! have a great rest of July and look for my August announcement in the general vicinity of the 2nd or 3rd!

New book, happy holiday

I hope everyone in the states had an awesome Independence Day yesterday! Naturally, for the rest of you, I hope it was a great Tuesday, as well. I spent my day catching up on Doctor Who and writing for the most part. It was quite pleasant. I wanted to take the time to thank everyone for reading my posts and participating recently. I’m working on some interesting pieces and still plan to try and have Maverip ready for beta readers by the end of August. It’s a rough go, and I’ve actually decided that, rather than handwriting first and then transcribing, I’m just going to type what’s left. This is as much a safety measure as a time saver.

That decision is somewhat bittersweet. Some of you know that when I started writing I wrote everything by hand, no matter what. For years that’s how I handled myself. I would write by hand for days, then type up what I’d written. That served as a sort of semi-editing process along the way, but it has been very slow going. Admittedly, I also have had dreams of leaving my original manuscripts for my children to look at someday – although my wife would argue that no one could read it anyway. I can still do that with everything leading up to this current point, but the rest may be just have to be typed so I can cut back on time and get my novel to a publisher by Halloween! Of course, that would be the perfect time to begin the publishing process on a horror novel, but I digress.  As always, anyone interested in being a beta reader for an modern, non-sparkly vampire novel please contact me and I’ll get everything set up!

But anyway, on to what we’re here for; July’s book selection! I decided to go with another new release with this month’s pick. Since the Summer is going strong, I’ve chosen a bit of a short work that promises to be really awesome. This month’s read will be “Gwendy’s Button Box,” by Richard Chizmar and Stephen King. It was released last month and has plenty of good reviews. Being a work even just partially created by King, I’m sure it will be an awesome piece. I’ll plan to post my review around July 26 or 27. I look very forward to discussing this piece with everyone and hope you enjoy your July!!

I Still Can’t Breathe

Hey there friends and fans! About two years ago I had a small snippet of a story pop into my head and I wrote it down quickly, placing it both in a blog and on my Facebook page to get outside opinions.

At the time I wasn’t sure exactly where it had come from or what it meant, and I’ve returned to it on and off through the years. At this point I’m thinking it may be the inspiration for  a potentially non-supernatural serial killer story. I’ve dabbled a bit in standard fiction, and I always prefer including the supernatural and horror elements in my work, but I think this piece has promise. I wanted to share it again here, so you could check it out. I’d love to have anyone and everyone’s opinion on this short piece of writing. What do you think as you read it? What do you feel? Can you even breathe, because sometimes I can’t.  Anyway, here is the piece, please give me feedback!!

I can’t breathe. My heart is pounding, my legs are throbbing and I can’t breathe. I don’t know how long I’ve been running or how much longer I can keep it up, but I know I can’t stop. The sun has been down for what seems like forever and the faint light is still clinging to the autumn day. My lungs are on fire; my chest feels like it’s going to explode. It’s just when I think things can’t get any worse that I make a terrible decision. I glance behind me to see how close my pursuer is and my foot finds a hole I hadn’t expected to be there. I feel my ankle snap like a twig, the sound ringing out like a shot in the silence. I hit the ground, feel the wind rush out of me and grab my leg. I don’t even have enough breath to scream as I roll over, mouth open in a terrible grimace and find that my attacker is on me.

                I see now that he is brandishing a knife and realize instantly that he means to use it on me. In the faint light I notice the tell-tale stain of rust on the blade as it arcs toward me, catching the reflection of the tree line I’d intended to be my salvation just before it plunges into my chest and out of sight. My first thought, rather than of my life, is of such a poorly manicured knife and what sickness it could bring if used in a culinary fashion.  I don’t have time or energy to react to the man’s attack, and soon it’s too late.

                I feel the pressure first, like being in school and having the pencil in your pocket stab your skin when you sit down. Before I know it the pressure becomes a white hot poker of misery as split and severed nerve endings begin screaming in a hellish, tortured chorus, the warmth inside my chest spreading outwards as my blood flows from newly opened veins. My last thought is a realization that both allows and solidifies my outcome; I am dying. 

Preparing for dystopia

The world has certainly kept turning since January 20. But that’s really the only way we can say it. Global citizens have watched, many in unabashed horror, as the new leader of the free world has stomped on countless toes and attempted to create little more than an industrial, alienating wasteland of our once-great country. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the U.S.. I still see that, as a citizen of the United States I have countless opportunities to see and explore the world in ways others may not, and I fully respect the great country I live in. But the danger is here nonetheless.

Just in the last month we have heard about how certain people should be banned (but not banned) from the country, we’ve heard that actually counting the heads of those present to get a number is clearly a dated practice that doesn’t mean anything, we’ve heard how large a threat grizzly bears pose to the public school system, and we’ve realized that some people think an industrial pipeline is more important than preserving the resting place of the dead. And that’s just the drop of the hat.

I have kept my over-sized nose out of the discussions of politics that are rampant on every form of news and social media available, but I do want to share my very real concern for how much worse things may realistically end up getting before they get better.

Just today I’ve been seeing the news of an overturned regulation that now allows coal mines in my region to once more dump their waste into streams. This particular practice has led to filthy, sulfurous, uninhabitable water for a good portion of my area. The repercussions of this practice have only recently started to see a reversal. I honestly fear what problems may start to arise from these things alone. I look to the future and, sometimes, I find myself unable to see little more than a ruined, smoking hole in the ground that is not unlike the disaster showed us at the climax of countless apocalyptic movies. But, (and on a much less serious note)it would appear Mother Nature has also picked up on the problem and is working to rectify the situation.

Thousands of people in my region have been hit by a severe strain of the flu this week, leading to around a dozen counties in my neck of the woods going so far as to cancel school for multiple days in an attempt to slow the spread of the illness. I hope I’m not the only one who sees the truth here. We are now entering the real-life culmination of the events in Stephen King’s “The Stand” – and our new president is Randall Flagg.

What other explanation is there? He walks out, looking somehow less than human, feeding off of human suffering and strife, turning as many people as possible against one another, while the rest of the people around him are fighting a severe version of the flu that medicine doesn’t seem to be able to help. Schools are closing, streets are filling with people shouting for change and help, hospitals are being overrun …. My only question now is; where is Mother Abigail when we need her? Who else is going to throw down the Walkin’ Dude and bring us back to a moderate form of social peace? Or, if that can’t happen, where is Roland, who will stop the fall of the tower and bring order back to the realms. Shout out to those of you get the interconnected references of a King fiend here.

In all seriousness, though. There are some administrative decisions being made by “those in charge” that are going to continue to cause problems for those of us who, like Atlas, are left holding up the rest of the world. Wow, that was pathetically conceited and hopelessly deep. I’m in a league of my own today, huh? Basically I just wanted to share that the world is slipping into rough shape, but that we can still survive and use humor to get through life. Most importantly, we can compare the real-life horror story that surrounds us to literature and find true peace to comfort us as the world burns!

I’ve shared my own ideas of the lack of existence of true democracy many times, so none of you really need to hear that again, I’m sure. So the question of the day must be; what book are you reading now? What fictional world are you pushing your consciousness into in order to escape the harsh mundane reality of everyday life? And, more importantly, what’s next?! I hope all is well for everyone here, and I hope I’ve at least brought a smile to a few faces. Keep reading, writing, watching movies and enjoying the world while we have the chance. My review of Thirteen Reasons Why will go up next week and then I’ll be ton the lookout for the next big review, so send me your ideas and let me know what we should read. Have a good February, a good weekend, and make sure to take advantage of any half-priced candy you see!

 

*Image rights remain with the creator.

Book number four, and special announcement

Hey everyone! It’s that time again! I’m really getting back into being able to have book discussions with those willing to participate. I’ve gotten a lot of satisfaction out of these last few months and I hope things will start to pick up even more and we’ll get more interaction soon. Regardless, the time has come to pick up this month’s book.

This particular book was suggested by one of my former teachers and a woman whom I have the utmost respect for. Mrs. Presley, of Tazewell high School, made this suggestion because some of her students have asked to cover the book. The piece in question, another YA novel, is the 2007 work “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher. This is a book that has kind of been on the back of my radar since my wife was asked to read it for a YA college course a few years ago. I really look forward to diving into the piece, but I have to admit that it may not be for everyone.

The book details the aftermath of a girl who committed suicide. She left 13 tapes for those who are responsible for or contributed to her suicide. For those of you who may face emotional pain, it may not be the best book to read, but I think it can be handled if it is read with care. Either way, I look very forward to this book and the discussion that will follow!

In other news; I don’t know if anyone noticed, but this blog is officially over 100 posts! That is just awesome. I’ve been blogging for around four years in total (of course, not all of those posts exist here). Of course, it has been touch and go at times, and some months were better than others, but it’s been something I’ve worked hard at improving. In light of the great news of the blog’s development, I decided that it was high time for an extra special giveaway!

For those of you who may not have seen the news before, I have been working on revamping my existing collection with updated stories, and perhaps some new material. The plan after that is to put the newly remade piece on a different platform and finally get it put in print! This is something I’ve been wanting to do for some time. Unfortunately I am also somewhat terrified of this prospect and have found reason after reason to put it off. But I’m done with that. I’m ready to get my work out to a new audience and see what else awaits!

In case you’re wondering why I brought this up again, it’s pretty simple. I want to give away that print book! Right now I’m planning to give away at least one signed copy of the book. All you have to do to enter the giveaway is like, comment on or share this post. The comment can be anything from giving me a book suggestion or telling me what you’ve thought about the blog in your time checking it out. Feel free to give me any and all suggestions on anything and everything you want. Everyone who does this will be entered to win an exclusive autographed first edition copy of this collection once it’s in print. I plan to run this contest until March 1, so we’ll have plenty of people to choose from!

Share this post far and wide to help me get the word out on both the book and the giveaway, ladies and gents! I look  forward to keeping everything going, and here’s to another 100!

New Page!

Hey everybody! I just wanted to pop in and say that I hope the first week of The 5th Wave is going well. So far I really enjoy the book and I’m taking plenty of notes about things I would like to discuss!

I also wanted to let you all know that I have developed a new Facebook page that is open for discussion from anyone on any book at all, not just limited to this particular book club’s monthly title.

As a literature lover, I am infatuated with discussing my passions, and I LOVE finding people who feel the same. I hope you’ll all jump over to the page and join it if you have Facebook. If not, feel free to contact me at any time with any lit discussion you’d like to have!

Here is the link to the page; https://www.facebook.com/litloverstalk/

Please help me share it far and wide so we can get some really good, wide open discussion!

Christmas is coming

Hey everybody! I can’t believe Christmas is only a week away! The year has lent itself to many awesome experiences and many interesting days, but that’s still to come!

In case any of you have forgotten, my second book club review will be posted in just under two weeks. This month’s book is none other than the age-old classic “A Christmas Carol” by the legendary Charles Dickens. This is a book that I wanted to read for years before I finally got my hands on it. Whether you’ve read the book or not, you definitely most likely know the story, even if you don’t celebrate Christmas. I hope that you’ll all take the time to read the book, regardless of whether or not you celebrate the namesake holiday. It does hold messages that can we could all use in everyday life, not the least of which (spoiler alert) is that we should cherish every moment we have and enjoy our lives.

I look very forward to having a discussion about this book with everyone who is willing, so grab your copy and read through it! The book is fairly  short, and (even though it’s Dickens) is a quick read, so two weeks is plenty of time!

Anyway, I just wanted to remind everyone of our book of the month and wish you all a very Merry Christmas. For those of you that don’t celebrate Christmas, Happy Holidays. I hope the last two weeks of this year go great for each and every one of you. Keep your heads up and enjoy the holiday season as we look forward to what 2017 can bring!

Share the book club posts with anyone and everyone who may be interested, and make sure to read and post your own comments as well!

Book number two!

Hey there friends and fans! The first month of the book club went great! I had a great time reading “Horns” and you guys seem to have enjoyed the book, too.

I’ve decided to go with a timeless classic for December – not to mention a bit of a shorter work, since we’ll all be busier with the holidays. This month we’re going to be reading “A Christmas Carol” by the late, great Charles Dickens!

I’ve talked to a number of people over the years who say they’ve always meant to read this book, but just haven’t had the chance or haven’t been able to get themselves motivated to do it. Well, if that’s you, here’s your chance! This book has been performed on stage and made into so many movies that we all already know the story, but there is nothing like reading those words as Dickens wrote them.

I hope you’ll all join me in taking a deeper look at this amazing piece of literary history. My post on the book will go up on or around December 31. I’m considering making it December 30, so I don’t have to annoy you all on New Year’s Eve ,  so you’ve got just under 30 days to knock out this awesome book! Let me know what you think in the comments below or if you plan to read along with me, and share this with anyone who’d like to be a part of the club or the discussion for this book.

“Horns” by Joe Hill

Here it is, everyone, my first book club book review of the newly revamped club. I understand I’m a couple days late, but Thanksgiving schedules got bumped, so I’m doing it on a Monday. I’ll share it again a couple of times in case anyone misses it. But, without further ado, I’ll jump right into my review.

First and foremost, I have to say that “Horns” was in no way what I expected. I went into the book fully expecting to enjoy it and find it an interesting read. What I actually got a mind-blowing, pseudo-noir, absolute gold nugget. I LOVE this book. The storyline alone is just so skewed and out-of-this-world that I felt myself get lost in the piece every time I started reading. I actually yearned for the next page, the next word, the next section. I felt like I HAD to know what was going to happen. In the end, of course, I felt (mostly) satisfied, even though Hill left the reader to sort of develop their own reasons for why things happened. Most of the time in a book like that, I’ll feel a bit annoyed that the author didn’t explicitly lay out that “this is what happened, this is how and this is why”, but with this book I didn’t even care.

“Horns”, of course, is the story of a man who wakes up and finds that he has sprouted horns. Literal horns that, when anyone looks at them, cause people to divulge their greatest secret or sin. Ignacio is forced to use these horns to uncover the truth about what happened to his girlfriend a year after her murder, and the journey to the truth is one that will blow you away.

One of the coolest things about the book, for me, was the imagery. Seeing Ig transform from this almost hipsterish (in my head) character, to a literal devil was fascinating. When Hill talked about Ig grabbing the pitchfork and putting on the rotten skirt over his red, burnt skin, I could almost picture that classic image of a dancing devil with cloven feet and a bifurcated tail. In all honesty, I think I added those last two elements in my head and found myself a little surprised that it didn’t happen in the book.

Lee Tourneau was one that I just loved to hate. Or hated to hate. Regardless, I was glad to see him finally die. I loved the slow reveal of his sheer sociopathic insanity. It almost reminded me of the slow reveal of such classic characters as Norman Bates, who was always a little off, but was thrown right in your face in the blink of an eye. To see Lee progress from a little weird, to smash a cat’s head in really sunk the image home for me. Until that point I had been leaning toward Ig’s own brother, but I stopped doubting myself right then and there.

Ig’s family and their showcase of support really made me think about just how often people will tell each other lies in order to avoid confrontation. When Ig’s mother tells him the truth that is on her heart, I felt the despair and anger that was rising within him. I knew in that moment that there was no going back for Ig. They say that no matter what happens, the one place they always have to take you in is home. That is in no way always true, and I love that Hill pointed that out. Ig’s entire family, except Terry, basically all but told him that they wished he’d get out of their lives. Terry’s guilt rising to the surface was an incredible sequence as well.

The horns themselves, able to draw the most sinful confessions out of anyone who looks at them, are a bit of thematic genius that I like to think were inspired at least somewhat by The Silence from Doctor Who. Granted, I like to see Who references in most things, that may just be my inner nerd coming out. I was very intrigued to see just how far Ig could push those around him to get them to reveal what he wanted to know and was astounded by the uncanny love snakes suddenly had for him. The horns, along with his goatee presented an image that I don’t think I’d be able to forget. Yet that’s what happened, time and time again. Everyone who looked at Ig just couldn’t remember anything about the encounter minutes after speaking with him. I found that element of the story mesmerizing. It almost calls to the idea that we avoid thinking of our own sin so much that even being forced or coaxed to confess them is not enough of a jolt to make us remember it all.

Now, when we come to discussion of “Horns”, one can never leave Merrin out of the loop. In my opinion Merrin is the best and worst character of the entire book. For a long time we see Merrin as a total victim, a murdered damsel who did nothing but love those around her to the fullest of her ability. But we find out later that this may not have been the whole truth. Hill reveals to the reader that Merrin had broken things off with Ig, had encouraged him to find other women to sleep with, had generally broken the heart of the man we have watched all but fall apart. Many things are insinuated for much of this book, including the possibility that Lee’s delusions may have some weight. We are left to consider the possibility that Merrin may have had another man in mind when she was asking Ig for this separation. In all honesty, there were even times that I thought Hill was trying to insinuate the possibility that Merrin had a thing for her roommate (and speaking of the roommate, what was up with that puzzle thing?). In the end we find out that Merrin had actually broken Ig’s heart for the simple reason that she didn’t want to break his heart. She knew she was likely to die – albeit not by having her head bashed in – and didn’t want Ig to suffer like her parents had. That’s very noble, of course, and kind of puts me in mind of a Nicholas Sparks book (don’t judge), but ultimately is a decision that I think Ig should make for himself. I think we all know he would have stayed stateside, and likely would have married her had she told him about her illness, but I truly think that should have been his decision. I think Merrin should have told him the truth instead of kill his spirit the way she did. Does this also make her a villain? Does this make her just as responsible for what happened to Ig as anyone else is? Personally I think the answers here are difficult. I wouldn’t call her a villain, but I’m certain that, had she told him the truth, she and ig would have had a lot less pain in some ways.

Now, there honestly wasn’t much that I didn’t like about the book at all. One thing that I did find that I didn’t think fit was the fact that Merrin’s cross protected Lee from the horns. I understand the whole concept of the horns being a satanic gift (I see you and your treehouse L. Morningstar) and the cross is a religious symbol, but Lee was basically evil personified. It was like Ig, who was good at heart, had to take on the mantle of evil to fight an evil being lurking behind a symbol of good. I know that description may have lost some of you, but that’s my brain. Personally I feel that’s something Hill could have altered. I think in a world where we can accept the mystical possibility of sin-revealing horns sprouting from a man’s head, then we also should have been able to accept the fact that the cross would be able to see Lee’s evil and not protect him. Of course, there’s the possibility that we look at that element and say it was suggestive of evil people hiding behind a religious symbol and being able to avoid persecution. Personally, I like the idea that Hill may have intended something along these lines. Historically there have been many people who have hidden their evil and evil motives behind a religious symbol, and it’s definitely not above Hill’s history to suggest that.

Of course, I couldn’t make this post without making a slight mention of Hill’s parentage. For those that don’t know, Joe Hill is the son of none other than Stephen King. In my opinion, this makes him uniquely qualified to be an author of this magnitude, and I think that it shows in some aspects of his writing, particularly his subject matter. Over all I think this book was a bit of sheer genius, with few flaws. I very much enjoyed the subtle nuances and ‘easter eggs’ placed throughout and I feel the project was very excellently executed (no pun intended). I would love to have been a neuron in Hill’s mind and have a first-hand look at just how this idea came to be. But what did you guys think? What questions did the book leave you with? Was there anything that you particularly loved or particularly hated about the book? I really hope you guys will weigh in here and share this with anyone and everyone you know. Book clubs are a great way to interact with people and have a potentially intellectual discussion on many topics.

Finally, I want to know what you guys want to read. What book do you want me to do for December? I’ll try to have my decision made by the 3rd, so I’m hoping to hear a lot of good answers. Like I said before, if I get more than one suggestion for a certain title, or more than one person commenting on that title it will hold precedence. Of course, if I only have one suggestion, a number of people who make one suggestion with no response, or (God forbid) no responses, then I’ll make the decision and let you all know what it is. So jump in, dig your feet in and get into the discussion. I want to hear the most detailed idea possible about these books and I really want to have some in-depth discussions! I look forward to it, so let the comments begin!