Saturday, November 26, 2011

Star Wars the Old Republic

I was chosen as one of the Beta testers for SWTOR! Needless to say, I will not be spending much time reading this weekend. The sad thing is that Daniel and my nephew were chosen as well and I lost the incredibly scientific method of paper-rock-scissors game so now I must play last. After being on the edge of my seat watching Daniel play first, it was announced that the server would be going down for two hours. >.>

Anyhow, now that I have two cups of coffee, one red bull and a tablespoon of Maalox running through me, I have to wait till 2:30am to finally play....

May the force be with me. ^.^

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Salem's Lot

The hours slipped by unnoticed to the point where I no longer felt the passage of time. Sweet, delicious sleep called to me and I yawned in response, but I needed to write about the book I’d just read. If I didn’t, it would come knocking at my window in the middle of the night, asking to be invited in….

When I was in high school I became fascinated with Vampires. I suppose I was no different than most young people who become obsessed with the idea of eternal youth and rebellious morbidity. The thought of shadows slithering into my room as my caramel neck lay exposed against the soft white pillow, and the veils of moonlight seeping through the chiffon curtains like pale grey spider’s webs, enticed me. I studied the occult with ravenous delight, gathering as many books about vampires that I could get my sixteen-year-old hands on.

Vampires were never a gentle beast (as some poor young souls have been fed to believe in this Twilight saturated era); no, these were monsters; but unlike their stumbling boogeyman counterparts so many of us feared lurking under our beds or clawing at our closet doors, these beasts were slick, agile... seductive. Consider some of the most “successful” serial killers we read about today: Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy. Their victims were not forced to follow them; they were seduced, ensnared if you will. A vampire’s victim oftentimes yearns to be taken.

Salem’s Lot is by far the best vampire novel I have ever read. Plain and simple. Keep in mind that you’re hearing that from someone who has read a great many vampire novels of both the fiction and non-fiction kind. No, Twilight does not count.

The plague borne in Salem’s Lot frightened me to the core. Which was strange because vampires have never done so before. I wanted to get away from them. I wanted daylight to break through the stygian, abysmal cloth of night. I am not a religious person, but there was nothing I wouldn’t have given for a drop of holy water or a crucifix while I read this tale of intoxicating evil. Due to this fact, you must know that I am the type of person who believes that everything happens for a reason....

The morning after completing the book, I walked through a local grocery store and noticed something small and silver on the ground. It was a crucifix. Somehow it had broken free of its previous owner’s necklace and onto the floor.

Under normal circumstances I would have returned it to “Lost and Found,” but on this day I scooped it up and placed it within the pages of Salem’s Lot, because who knows what I may have invited in after reading through its yellowed pages....

So, as my eyes grow tired and my mind grows weak, I will leave you with this, dear reader: whether you are religious or not, the most important thing in the world is to simply have faith and believe that you have the power to overcome the evils in this world... and also the power to resist inviting them in….

I dedicate this toast to you, Mark Petrie. You are most definitely the type of person I want to be when I grow up.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gerald's Game

To be completely honest with you, I was not looking forward to writing about Gerald’s Game. Stepping into her world seemed voyeuristic enough, writing about it felt... facetious. I may as well have been lurking in a dark corner of her room with nothing between us but shadows and moonlight as I watched her sleep.

For weeks I struggled against reading this particular novel. The very idea of it made me feel degraded. Yet, it was also one of the books that called to me the loudest. There it was, shouting at me every time my fingertips caressed the spines of the other novels, knowing I would skip over it once again; every time my eyes would dart in its direction, hoping it would somehow disappear... like a bad memory. But bad memories never disappear, do they? Quite the contrary, they tear at your flesh like a cancer and expose you to the very core of who you really are. Ignoring those memories that you so very much try to forget is like trying to forget to breathe.

There is nothing supernatural about this book. No boogeyman lurking under the bed or houses pregnant with restless spirits. There is only the harshest of realities we must face on a day-to-day basis; the reality that sometimes the only monsters we need to fear are the people we want to trust the most. Who wants to face something so horrible as that? Not I.

Which is why when I finally read this book I was grateful. Grateful that I had gotten through it. Grateful that I was not her. Grateful that in all my years as an adolescent, I never had my childhood ripped from me as she did.

I learned two things from this book:

1) No matter how desperately we try to run away from our past, we cannot. It is an inevitable part of who we are and will shape our futures selves no matter how much we don’t want it to. And how we face our past is what makes all the difference between making us better, stronger people or weak, submissive ones.

2) I will never again utter the phrase “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

I dedicate this toast (I have chosen to toast with a glass of ice-cold water this time) to Prince. Perhaps the only true innocent soul in this sad tale....

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Rose Madder

Pink. It had to be pink. Red seemed somehow grotesque and rude.

Whenever I read a book I feel inclined to include my two cents in the margins. Usually, “red” is my color choice for doing so, but Rose Madder would permit no such thing. The violence of the deep shade would not be allowed to touch its pages less I proclaim myself an enemy; an enemy who loved talking to people right... up... close.

Stephen King’s books make me... aware of my surroundings. They draw me into the story and when I look up from the pages of his world, my senses seem somehow enhanced. After reading Rose Madder I felt my senses sharpen like so many thorns bursting free of a rose’s stem.

Why are there so many crickets in my home lately...?

It is one twenty four in the afternoon. The sun is high overhead and a cool breeze washes over me as I sit outside marveling at the deep green leaves of the ficus trees that line our old wooden fence. Yellow buds from the steadfast willow float aimlessly through the air and land on the porch amongst its familiars. It is warm outside, even on this November afternoon, but a chill runs through me nonetheless as passages from the novel envelope me like words being whispered in my ear. Moments later I realize that this is the first King novel I have completed while there is still daylight out. This unsettles me.

In the past, when I complete one of his books I can fall asleep, and though my dreams might be plagued with the visions that float out of the pages, I can wake up to the sunlight as it streams in through the bedroom window in soft, welcoming waves.

My fingers twitch and an unwavering frown sits upon my lips. I do something I have not done since I was seven years old. I pinch myself, half expecting the slight sting not to hurt; half expecting this day to be a dream. The pain reminds me that I am very much awake and another twinge of fright crawls across my flesh like some grotesque insect scuttling across your foot.

Upon awakening this morning, the first thing I grabbed was the novel, even as I was still finding my way out of the previous night’s disturbing dream. I vaguely remember scribbling something down. Later, as I closed the book, I flipped through the first few pages and realized I had indeed written something

(in pink)

on the dedication page of Rose Madder.

"She knew she would die alone on that cold December night, under the watchful gaze of those jagged, salient stars."

All at once I feel like crying. Silently, I vow never to finish reading one of Mr. King’s novels while there is still daylight in the sky. It makes his world much too real. Much too Rosie Real.

As irony would have it, for the first time I use a deep red wine to toast a character. As the wine stains my pink lips, transforming them into a sensuous mauve

(rose madder)

and the remnants of the liquid settle to the bottom of the glass, I wonder how much of Mr. King’s books become reality after they are read.

I dedicate this toast to you, Rose Madder, for I am far too familiar with the madness of your troubled mind.

And somewhere, a plethora of crickets chirp contentedly....

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bag of Bones

Bag of Bones was one of the most well-written stories I have ever read... it was also one of the most disturbing. Seldom do I get genuinely scared from reading books. Yes, that sense of unease creeps over you in much the same way that walking through a deserted house will upon a dare. Was that creak in the floorboard behind you a restless spirit or just a mouse taking cover? Is that the wind making the branches of a tree scrape across the window, or is a pale bony hand dripping with decaying flesh eager to join you inside as it claws at the dirty windowpane? That’s what a good book does. It stirs your imagination into one big stew of possibilities.

Like any story, it had its pros and cons. First off, it was difficult listening to the main character. There were plenty of times I looked at him and thought “Seriously? Did you have to tell me about your hard-on again?”

One night I looked up from the book and checked the clock, it was closing in on three in the morning. My eyelids were getting heavy and I could feel my lungs taking in deeper and deeper breaths of air. I wanted to stop... but I couldn’t. The story was wrapping up, but as it did it became increasingly distressing. So distressing, in fact, that I didn’t want to take it with me into the dawn. If I could avoid having daylight spill across the pages again I would, because there was no way in hell I wanted to keep reading such a tragic tale any longer than I needed to. Maybe all Maggie wanted to do was dance, but all I wanted to do was sleep and dream about anything other than that book.

Daniel slumbered next to me. His snoring was a comfort for the first time in all the years we’ve shared a bed. The presence of our dogs helped as well. All that life helped keep all that death at bay.

By the time the clock struck four, I was done. As I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling fan cast eerie elongated shadows across the wall, I could feel the weight of the hardcover as it lay on my chest like an unconscious child. I walked into the kitchen and caught my reflection in the dark window over the sink. There was no way in hell I was going to be able to nod off now. I grabbed two Ibuprofen PM’s from the cabinet and took them with a large glass of cold water. It was another twenty minutes before sleep even began to overcome me, but when it finally did, I was grateful.

As I climbed into bed I remembered I had not put the book back on the bookshelf. Frodo Waggins, one of our dogs, has great taste in novels. In other words, he chews as many as he can. The medicine was already well in effect and the living room seemed about a thousand miles away. Nevertheless, I looked over the side of my bed and saw the book laying there helplessly. I thought about how funny it was that we found the book without the sleeve. It had been removed. Like skin from bone....

It’s pale form lay exposed (but not entirely lifeless) in the light of the reading lamp. Next to it were some bits of dust bunnies that had escaped from underneath the bed.

(It’s my dust catcher)

“Fuck it,” I thought as a chill ran through me. I rolled over and shut my eyes, trying not to imagine a long white hand creeping out from underneath the bed in search of its book.

I didn’t even bother turning off the light.

As the king of story-telling fled across the desert, his avid readers followed....

One year.... My fiance and I have challenged ourselves to read the complete works of the master story-teller himself, Mr. Stephen King, in just one year. We are insane (or at least will be by the time we’re done with this challenge). It was not until a few months after we began collecting his books that Daniel suggested up this “little” dare. Fittingly so, it began with the book Firestarter, and it has not let up since.

As we browsed the used bookstore at our favorite local library, I saw three of his hardcover books on sale for the bargain price of fifty cents a piece (Sorry Mr. King, but times, they are a tough). I snatched them up as quick as my eager little hands could, warding other patrons away with the best “Cujo” snarl I could muster.

What I want out of this challenge, more than anything, is to be able to provide some type of entertaining and personal insight for other Stephen King fans. I suppose the articles following the books are also a type of catharsis, because when you read a Stephen King novel you’re never quite the same again, and any King fan will understand that....

Some of the books I have already read, but will re-read simply to make this challenge fair. Well, let me be completely honest with you, there is one book of his that I cannot bring myself to read again and I’ll tell you why later. For now, our collection is near completion and our journey into the mind of Stephen King has begun. God help us.

Note to reader: If anyone begins to sense that something has gone awry with our sanity, please feel free to bring it to our attention. One can never be too safe.