The Hallo-Wiener

img_8015I love the creepy of Halloween, but the season would not be complete without a little bit of the goofy of Halloween. Who better to bring that element than Dav Pilkey?

Poor Oscar doesn’t quite fit in with the other dogs, being that he is a dog and a half long, but only half a dog tall. The other dogs tease him, and while his mother means well, the Halloween costume she made for him is certainly not helpful. But when the other dogs are attacked by a “monster,” Oscar isn’t going to just run away!

This is a fun book for the season, and can be a good teaching tool for kids too– the other dogs tease Oscar, but they learn that sometimes being different as its advantages when Oscar comes through to save the day. Good for a read aloud in October, and also a relatively easy read that incorporates some bigger vocabulary (such as the ornery cats!). Like in some of the other Dav Pilkey books, I like the little “extras” added into the illustrations– we can see that Oscar’s last name is Myers on his mailbox, and the title page has the book title lettered in hot dogs!

Boris’s thoughts: “Seriously? Cats as the bad guys? Boo. Hiss. 1 paw.”

Something Wicked This Way Comes

img_5193Dates Read: September 18 to October 5, 2017

Rating: 5 (of 5) stars

As I often do, I am finding it difficult to put in to words what it is that made this book great to me. Alas, here I am, trying to put it into words anyway.

The general theme of the story is fairly straightforward– good versus evil. The “good guys” and the “bad guys” are laid out pretty clearly, and there’s a clear winner of the battle. However, to consider this book only in those terms would be a gross oversimplification. While it may be built around a simple frame, there is something beautiful in the words that truly build this story.

Bradbury perfectly captures all of the wonder and magic of the fall season, and his style here fits with that beautifully. I have read Bradbury before, but never noticed the beauty in his writing. The Halloween carnival is the perfect setting, and I felt there was just enough mystery and intrigue for my liking. This is horror, but not overt, in-your-face horror. It’s more of a lurking, sinister horror, where you never know what may lay around the next corner– not quite waiting for the killer to jump out and grab you, but wondering what trap may have been set for you to stumble upon.

Boris’s thoughts: “I don’t know about all this creepiness, real life is scary enough! As long as you will keep me safe, I give it 3 paws.”

The Boy of a Thousand Faces

img_8077At 48 pages, this is not quite a children’s picture book, but not quite a novel either. Something in between: perhaps a children’s novella? I am a big fan of Brian Selznik. I love the style of his novels and the way he combines words with illustrations to tell a story. This is a little different than his longer works, in that he uses the pictures to supplement this story rather than to continue driving the plot. However, the pictures are no less essential here than in his novels.

Being born on Halloween, it is no surprise that Alonzo has a fascination with monsters. His love is fueled by the late-night horror film show hosted by Mr. Shadow, where he discovers the greatness of Lon Cheney. Alonzo is inspired by the films, which turns into a dream to become the “boy of a thousand faces.” I love that his character has a dream that is outside of what might be considered normal. Alonzo goes beyond “I want to be a movie star” to actually working on and creating something new. His goal is not to be famous, but in the creation of something to be enjoyed by others.

The reciprocal relationship between Alonzo and Mr. Shadow is interesting as well. Alonzo is inspired by Mr. Shadow and his show, reaching out to him when he is beginning to feel disillusioned with his dream. At the same time, Mr. Shadow believed that nobody was interested when his show ended, but was inspired by Alonzo to “bring back” something that he loved in a new way.

I love this as a tribute to traditional horror films, special effects, and Lon Cheney. I think it is also a great introduction to the horror genre. It is a bit creepy, but not something that would truly scare most children. It’s perfect for kids who might have an interest in things that are a bit dark seeming, that might seem a little weird to others.

Boris’s thoughts: “Hmmm… dark and weird… I approve. 3 paws.”

The Witches of Eastwick

img_5282Date Read: October 6 to November 12, 2017

Rating: 2 (of 5) stars

Although October is my favorite month, I am going to start it off with something a bit untraditional for me: a review of a book that I did not like! Prior to reading this, I had heard many mixed opinions on Updike. Most were negative. There are a few people out there, however, who think he is a genius. His characters are so “real.”

Let me start by saying I had some fairly high hopes for this book. Three small town witches, mysterious rich man, scandal. Sounds like so much potential! Unfortunately, my high hopes did not last long. Apparently, what people mean by saying his characters are “real,” is that they are “flawed.” This is definitely true. To a fault. There is not a single character in this novel that I liked. I could not find a single slightly redeeming quality in any of the witches. They were selfish, petty, and generally horrible people. Even their “loyalty” to their coven was so easily cracked with the introduction of a man. These are supposed to be “real women?” Seems more like a parody of every negative quality that you think a woman could possess.

Then there is a power of the witches, which is linked so heavily to their sexuality. This I can understand to an extent– there is a power in a woman’s sexuality, and this would be especially poignant in the era in which the book is set. However, this seems to be the only power that the witches have. A witch whose power is inextricably linked to her sleeping with other women’s husbands? Seems pretty lame to me.

I found the plot to be a bit lackluster as well. There were a few interesting moments, but for the most part, it seemed mediocre. The witches do some questionable things, introduction of mysterious man that seems good at first but ultimately leads to discontent among them, discontent leads to revenge, leads to more questionable things, we get a little hint of some possible remorse, but then ending with indifference. Nothing in the plot of the novel seemed to matter to anyone in the end. Perhaps this is supposed to be some deeper level of social commentary, but it comes off as rather dull.

I will give the novel as a whole a few redeeming points, which is why I gave this 2 stars instead of 1. I did enjoy the style of the writing, and many of the descriptions. This is part of what helped push me through the novel, although also gave me a false hope that it would get better as I read. There was also a single scene, so to speak, that stood out to me. When Alexandra first meets Darryl, he “traps” her on the island with the incoming tide. She realizes that this was in intent, and chooses to exert some power over him by leaving anyway– standing tall and turning her back to him, even though it should have been something that embarrassed her.

Boris’s thoughts: “What kind of real witch has a dog as a familiar? Where are the cats? 1 paw.”