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My Progress:

12 / 30 books. 40% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

- Alabama (1)
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My Progress:

28 / 51 states. 55% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

24 / 50 books. 48% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

23 / 50 books. 46% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

48 / 50 books. 96% done!

2024 52 Club Reading Challenge

My Progress:

40 / 52 books. 77% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:

27 / 40 books. 68% done!

2024 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

15 / 40 books. 38% done!

2024 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

My Progress:

10 / 25 books. 40% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

2024 Mystery Marathon Reading Challenge

My Progress

12 / 26.2 miles. 46% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

My Progress

26 / 100 books. 26% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

65 / 104 books. 63% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

44 / 52 books. 85% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

71 / 165 books. 43% done!
Monday, January 12, 2015

Chilling Needful Things Is King at His Twisted, Depraved Best

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

There was a time—not so many moons ago—when reading in public was the fastest way to get your teenage self labeled a nerd.  And, unlike today, nerdy definitely did not equal cool.  Nobody bragged about being a nerd, nobody tried to be a nerd, nobody wanted to be a nerd.  Including me.  Thus, even though I was as voracious a reader in high school as I am now, I never committed the unpardonable sin of reading a book where I might be seen by one of my peers.  Unless, of course, it was authored by Stephen King.  He was cool.  Reading his horror-filled stories was cool.  Therefore, back in the day, I read a lot of King.  These days, I have trouble stomaching his particular brand of storytelling, although I admit I still find his books compelling.  Still, I can only digest him at the rate of one book every few years.  

At Halloween-time (I did mention that I'm a *little* behind on reviews, right?), I got a hankering for some old-school King.  So, I picked up Needful Things, a story that had stuck in my head more from watching the 1993 film version than from reading the book.  The premise of the novel is brilliant in its eerie simplicity:  A mysterious new shop opens in small-town Maine.  Its inventory—incredibly enough—includes the very trinkets most desired by the good folk of Castle Rock.  Normally, such treasures would not be attainable on the townspeople's modest salaries, but Leland Gaunt, the shop's inscrutable owner, is always willing to negotiate.  All he requires of eager shoppers is a small, "harmless" trick played on a neighbor.  It's nothing serious, Mr. Gaunt assures them, just good, clean fun.  A trifle, a bargain, a small price to pay to possess your heart's desire.  

Of course, as the townspeople soon discover, Mr. Gaunt's prices might be irresistible, but they're never small.  He takes your charity, your dignity, your sanity—and then, he takes your soul ...

As chilling and depraved as Stephen King's novels always are, they're also undeniably engrossing.  The horror master creates full, rounded characters, then shoves them into tense, high-risk situations that beg the question, "What's going to happen?"  Good luck bailing before you find out!  Needful Things, one of King's best in my opinion, is no exception.  Although the story starts quietly, things get awfully intense awfully quick.  I cared about the cast, so I stuck around to see what happened to them.  Even though I wanted to stop reading at certain points, I never did.  I couldn't.  Such is the seductive charm of Mr. King and his warped (but very imaginative) mind!  Needful Things showcases his talent for characterization, plot intensity, and revealing evil in all its various forms.  If you're a King fan, you don't want to miss this one.  

(Readalikes:  King's other Castle Rock stories [The Dead Zone; Cujo; The Dark Half; etc.] have related characters and a similar writing style, though different subject matter)


If this were a movie (and it is!), it would be rated:

for strong language, violence, blood/gore, sexual content, and depictions of illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love:  I bought Needful Things with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Newbery Medal Winner Full of History and Heart

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Tree-Ear, an orphan living in 12th Century Korea, has one desire:  to create beautiful celadon pottery like the skilled artisans for which his village is known.  He has little opportunity to do so, however, since his time is occupied by eking out a meager living for himself and his guardian.  Crippled and elderly, Crane-man has always insisted they do so honestly, without stealing or begging.  Tree-Ear may be poor, but he's a good boy who's enjoyed a relatively happy life.  Even if his greatest desire has remained unfulfilled.

While spying on a local potter in the hopes of learning some of his secrets, Tree-Ear accidentally breaks some of the man's wares.  Tree-Ear promises to work off the debt and more, if the artist will only take him on as an apprentice.  Overjoyed by the prospect of finally learning to create beautiful pottery, Tree-Ear does not realize what he has gotten himself into.  The cranky potter will not make the apprenticeship easy, especially when he receives a royal commission that will, ultimately, require every ounce of skill and courage young Tree-Ear possesses. 

Filled with history and heart, A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park tells a unique, inspiring story about one boy's quest to live his dream.  Winner of the 2002 Newbery Medal, this quiet tale is a testament to the power of hard work, determination, and bravely soldiering on against insurmountable odds.  Even though it's not my absolute favorite Newbery winner, A Single Shard is absolutely worth the read.  It's a simple, but affecting story that teaches some great lessons.  

If you're interested in seeing real Korean potters at work, check out this video that I discovered via Linda Sue Park's website.  It's pretty amazing!

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence and intense situations

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
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