I talked about reading a new book each month this year in my resolutions post. These weren’t going to be the latest paperback or best seller. Instead, I wanted to challenge myself to read 12 books that make such lists as “100 books you must read before you die.”
I went hunting for these books with a few goals in mind. 1) I had to at least have heard of the book, 2) I had to be able to get it at the library or on my own (or a friend’s) bookshelves, and 3) it had to be one I could reasonably finish in a month (nothing over 500 pages). I found 12 such stories, made a list, and then thought, Why don’t I write my opinions of them?
Thus was born a second project: blog posts. I now have at least 12 ready-made topics to talk about over the coming year. Yay!
A word of warning: I am not a professional critic. I took a few college English classes ages ago and I can help my teenagers write well enough to pass their tests. I wouldn’t even call these reviews. They are simply whatever thoughts passed through my head while reading. Now, onto the books!
January’s book was Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. I had vaguely heard the title somewhere and thought, Oh, I like that title. That was all I knew about it before I jotted it down on my yellow legal pad. I had some idea it might be a psychological thriller, but I didn’t even read the introduction before jumping right in (sometimes I don’t look before I leap).
I’ll tell you up front: I was bored for about the first hundred pages. It got to the point I made a deal with myself: can’t get into bed before I read 10 pages. That’s it. That’s all I could take in. The writer is very descriptive and it threw me off. I liked the scene setting, but it seemed every. single. noun. had an attached description. Examples, you say? Ok, here’s a few:
– “For the tents were lemon like the sun, brass like wheat fields a few weeks ago. Flags and banners bright as blue-birds snapped above lion colored canvas.”
– “They prowled on but found no mysterious midnight spheres of evil gas tied by mysterious Oriental knots to daggers plunged in dark earth, no maniac ticket takers bent on terrible revenges.”
– “(He) ambled aross the clanking chain, leaped to a turntable surface vast as the moon, among the frantic but forever spelled beasts.
– “They stared down at bright flame-red hair, bright flame-blue eyes, and rippling biceps.”
See? I didn’t have to write these down to remember them. I just looked back on random pages and there they were for the choosing. And it went on and on and on. The only time it stopped was for the actual dialogue. That’s about the time I set my 10 page rule, just so that I could finish the thing by the end of the month.
I was in for a surprise, though. After a week and a half, the story took off. I would read 20 – 30 pages in a sitting and then try to squeeze in time for more. All the descriptions that had been annoying took on sinister hues, reminding me of Stephen King. Normally, I’m not a big horror fan (actually, I’m pretty chicken), but this story crept up on me, every so slowly latched on, and then didn’t let go. By that time, it was too late to stop, even if I wanted to.
It is the story of two boys, very different from each other, but the best of friends. They are neighbors and need only lift their bedrooms windows if they want to talk. As most small town boys everywhere, they get into and out of mischief, are generally polite to their elders, and dream of growing up and having adventures.
Until one night, long after all the traveling fairs have shut down for the year, a dark carnival rolls into town. One of the boys is drawn to this collection of odd people, the other is cautious and wary. It isn’t long before they notice this carnival isn’t like the others that have passed their way. A melody sings out in the night, calling to certain people, promising them what they desire most.
Those who accept what the carnival offers are never the same, but it is hard to say no. Soon, the boys learn the secret of the music, sparking a terrifying game of hide and seek with a man not accustomed to losing.
I won’t give away the ending. But I want you to know this is a wonderful coming of age book. So many themes could be pulled from it, but my favorite is one character’s awakening, after many years half-asleep, to realize he still has so much to give. You are never so old that no one needs you. It may be your knowledge that is the key to solve all the riddles.
Age: Teen and up.