The Haunted Mask by R.L. Stine
Carly Beth is a scaredy cat and everyone knows it, especially Steve and Chuck. Anytime they get the chance, they scare Carly Beth. It can be a “Boo” from around a corner or a story of a tarantula gone wild. Carly’s brother also likes to get in on scaring Carly. This year, she has determined to go as something really scary for Halloween. Her mother bought her a duck costume, but that’s not scary.
There’s a new costume shop in town. Carly begs entry into the store around five in the evening on Halloween. She doesn’t want to be a gorilla or a Freddy. There’s a room in the back though. Inside are very scary masks. The man refuses to sell her one, but she insists. She puts on the mask and she is terrifying. Her brother is scared. Her friends are scared. Carly finds a delightfully evil power in scaring other children. She finds she is mean in the mask. It’s as if something awful comes out in her when she wears the mask.
When she’s had her fun, or she thinks she’s had her fun, she tries to take the mask off, but there’s a problem–it won’t come off.
What I liked
Obviously, I get on subconscious kicks to read similar things sometimes. I just read another book concerning a mask and here I am reading this one. I think I recently did the same thing with vampires. I find this kind of funny.
You know, I can see this mask as being a metaphor. Sometimes we pretend to be someone or something else so we can act out some desire or rage that we normally wouldn’t act out, as ourselves. We have to ask ourselves a question though. Is it the real you if you hide something down deep that can only come out when you’re “pretending” to be someone else? Wouldn’t the “pretend” you be the more real you? At the same time, we’re all human every single one of us have had a desire to strangle someone else. Someone has, in reality, been so annoying, aggravating, crazy-making, or anger-making that we wouldn’t mind seeing them get run over by a steam roller. Do we act on these desires? Usually not. We calm down and know that violence is not the answer, unless it’s vigilante justice, in which case, violence is always the answer, but none of us are Batman, so we better hang up that hat.
This book reminds me of the idea of internet trolls. There are jerks on the internet, who may be perfectly nice people in real life who use the internet as a mask so they can belittle as many people as they want. They can get away with anonymously calling a thousand people fat, lazy slobs on the internet, whereas in real life, someone might tackle them, and this person would probably end up on the short end of that stick.
Carly isn’t a jerk, but I can understand her frustration. We all want to secretly get back at someone every once in a while. Carly found that getting back at people can make you something you’re not, or make you someone you don’t want to be. Horror of horrors, what if that new someone is the you you’re going to be forever?
What I didn’t like
I do find this book a little scary for kid standards. Maybe kids won’t think that deeply about this book though. I think I find it scary because of the deeper implications of “getting someone back,” but maybe that wouldn’t even cross a kid’s mind.
It’s a mask…no…it’s my face! Aaaaahhhhhh……..
Would you wear a weird mask you found in the back of some weird store?
If you could be someone else, would you act on some of those deep and taboo desires you might have?
The Shack by William P. Young
Mackenzie Phillips did not expect his family’s camping trip to end in tragedy, but it did. One minute the family was canoeing, the next, one of the daughters, Missy, is gone. She’s missing. There is no sign of her anywhere. There’s a coloring book, a red crayon, and a ladybug pin that does not belong to Missy. A search follows. The only thing ever found of Missy is her bloody dress in a shack near the campsite. That’s it. It’s all the work of the notorious Little Lady Killer. Each time he kills a girl, he leaves a lady bug pin, with an extra dot for the newest victim.
The tragedy shakes Mack’s family. The family was always prayerful and always close to God, whom Mack’s wife likes to call Papa, but now, Mack doesn’t know what to think. How could a good god allow such an awful thing to happen?
Four years later, a strange letter comes in the mail. Nobody knows where it came from. The letter invites Mack to the shack, but is signed “Papa.” Is this some cruel trick by Missy’s murderer? Is this letter from God? Mack prepares for both scenarios. If it’s the murderer, he has a gun. If it’s God, he has questions. What he finds in the shack is nothing he could have ever expected.
What I liked
I really liked this book. I don’t want to give away much of anything about it. It’s very profound. If you want to read something that makes you think and feel on a deep level, this book can certainly fit that bill.
This is a Jesus book, which you might not appreciate if you’re not a Jesus person. Usually, I don’t appreciate “Jesus” books because everyone is too high and mighty about it, making both Jesus and God too impersonal; this book is the opposite of that.
I loved this scenario of possibly meeting God. If you met God, what would you ask him/her? What would you say? How would you act? Do you think you would tremble in fear in the presence of God, or do you think that you and God would get along like family?
I can’t imagine how I would behave around God. I have definitely been a prayerful person in my life, but I think it’s different when you can’t see a person and they’re not actively responding to you, having actual verbal responses and a face to look act would be a game changer, I think, anyway.
This is one of those books that makes the idea of a higher power one of the most beautiful things you can imagine, at least for a short period while reading the book.
What I didn’t like
I don’t entirely agree with some of the theology in this book. I liked a lot of it. It was beautiful.
There is this bit presented in this book claiming that the independence of humanity is what has screwed everything up. This book also claims that Adam and Eve eating that fruit screwed it up for all of us. I don’t believe this. God gave us the ability to be independent and think for ourselves so that we could be more like him. God certainly thinks for himself and makes decisions for himself, so why wouldn’t his creation? We were made in God’s image, after all.
I also believe the whole eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was supposed to happen. It was the first exercise of choice for humanity. When humanity saw that it could make choices and that choices had consequences, it was able to understand the idea of being this autonomous creation of God.
The death of a child is an awfully sad way to go about all of this.
I really enjoyed it.
Can you imagine meeting God?
Do you find that you’re angry at God/the universe/the higher power of your choice if something bad happens to you that is beyond your control?
Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods by Hal Johnson
Have you ever wondered what types of creatures may lurk in the edges of the forest, just beyond where familiar trees give way to bigger and scarier trees? The Lumberwoods is that area where civilization meets the wild. Maybe you’ll see a raccoon, or maybe you’ll see something more.
The creatures in this book just might come across your path as you’re exploring the wild. Almost all of them are incredibly dangerous. There is a snake that can kill secondhand. You don’t even have to be bit by it. If you bite something it bit, you’ll suffer the awful demise associated with its terrible and extremely deadly venom.
There’s a tall creature with no knees, that might gobble you up, along with some tree tops. There’s a large fish that comes down from the mountains, devouring everything in its slimy path. There’s a creature that swims under the snow; you just might disappear.
There are plenty more creatures in this book, some too scary to mention here. Just be careful, there, in the Lumberwoods.
What I liked
I love this concept of the Lumberwoods. I originally thought of “the limberlost” which is different, but maybe similar. I love the idea of an area of the wild where things stop making so much scientific sense. Creatures are strange, perhaps supernatural, or plain conspiracy theory. We only know so much about the world; what about the parts we don’t know? Could there not be something so fantastic that it could defy our current explanation of physics, biology, or even time? Science cannot know everything, so for now, maybe everything in the woods is perfectly explainable, but maybe, it’s not.
I loved the illustrations; they were very Burton-esque.
I loved the stories. They were like Mythology, and folklore, and ghost stories–all of which, I adore.
What I didn’t like
I have heard of a few of these creatures, or something very similar, off-hand. These stories were re-ka-jiggered by Hal. There is another book with this same name, supposedly, written some time back. I would like to read that book. While Hal’s take on these stories is perfectly fine, I’d like a little more meat to any actual folklore surrounding these creatures. A little more background would also be nice. Folklore generally arises out of something, why did these creatures come into existence, albeit a fictional existence?
Watch out when you’re in the woods.
Do you think it’s possible that there might be strange animals in the woods?
What do you think about the idea of the Lumberwoods?
The Whole Town’s Talking by Fannie Flagg
Elmwood Springs started out as a small town settled by a few immigrants from Sweden. The land was cheap. It all started with Lordor Nordstrom. He had his farm and there were a few other people around, but he also wanted a wife. Some of the people talked him into trying for a mail-order wife and Lordor did just that. He ended up with Katrina. It took a while for the two to get to know each other, but soon they did and they married. Lordor started a dairy farm, that later became a huge business.
The town began to grow. Babies were born. More and more people showed up. The town got electricity. The town started to have cars. Downtown grew. Families grew and branched out.
When Lordor died, he was surprised to find that he was still conscious. He was just up on the hill at the cemetery. He was able to think and talk, although there wasn’t really anyone to talk to, except that one guy. As time passed, more people came to join Lordor at the cemetery. They could all talk to one another and it was almost like being alive except for there were no bodies involved. The strange thing was that every once in a while, someone would just disappear and they didn’t come back.
A newspaper was started in Elmwood Springs and the notorious Ida Jenkins decided that she needed to write a society column for the paper. She called it The Whole Town’s Talking. She would write about what was going on in town, perhaps with a little bias, we all know Ida after all. The paper went on, and Ida eventually went on.
Lordor’s granddaughter now owned the dairy, but her husband was a good-for-nothing. When She died, it was made known that the husband had inherited everything, which was strange because Lordor’s granddaughter had originally intended to leave a lot of money to charities. Lordor also wrote a clause into the dairy stating that it could never be sold to a non-family member. The people up in the cemetery knew there was foul play afoot, but how could they do anything about it as dead people? Eleanor, whom we’ve met before, was quite upset about it, but what could she do?
What I liked
I love Fannie Flagg books. I love how she encompasses an entire town in her books. I’ve read other books about Elmwood Springs, which I highly enjoyed. Eleanor is such an interesting character. I love how she feeds every animal around. It’s just so neat to read all the ins and outs of a whole town. I also love how Fannie follows generations from several families. We don’t just find out about the grandparents; we find out about the grandparents, the children, the grandchildren, and the great-grandchildren…maybe even the pets too. It’s great.
Fannie is also funny. She has a knack for creating real-life scenarios, that are humorous. Fannie is a good people-watcher. Some of these people in this book could be people who I know. Tott Wooten reminds me of more people than I can count.
I also love how Fannie can combine woo-woo and real life and make it sound plausible. I can’t imagine that a bunch of dead people sit around in a cemetery and talk, but maybe it happens.
What I didn’t like
Some of Fannie’s philosophy in this book makes me a little sad. I believe in the idea that you can stay connected to your family members after death and Fannie’s philosophy in this book makes that impossible, at least in Fannie’s philosophy.
The whole town is talking about how great this book is.
Would you want to talk to the people you were buried next to?
If you wrote a society column in a newspaper, what would you highlight?
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Jacob’s grandfather had these crazy photos. He would tell Jacob, over and over again, about the children in the photos. There were fantastic stories to go along with each picture. This little girl could levitate. This brother and sister were very strong. It all captured Jacob’s imagination, until he grew up. At that point, Jacob’s grandfather was regarded as a stretcher of the truth.
Jacob was sixteen when he started working for one of his family’s stores, but then tragedy struck, Jacob’s grandfather was killed. Jacob saw a strange creature and reacted terribly to the death of his grandfather, whose last words did not make sense to Jacob. There was something about a loop and the old man’s grave and the bird. Jacob did not know what any of it meant. Jacob went to see a psychologist to help him with his recovery.
It was not until an old letter was found in a book that Jacob got a clue to his grandfather’s past. There was an address, a small Welsh island. Jacob decided that he needed to go and visit it. His father went along as well, to look at birds.
Things were not promising at first, but one day, Jacob followed a girl out into a bog and through an ancient grave, a cairn. When he came out the other side, he wasn’t in the same place he had left. There he found an array of children, many of which were too strange to believe. It was from Miss Peregrine, who ran the school, that Jacob learned that these people were called Peculiars and his grandfather had been one. The girl Jacob followed was named Emma and she had actually loved Jacob’s grandfather. Jacob’s grandfather had stayed at the very house that these strange children lived in, back in WWII, before he went to fight the war, and later, have an ordinary, or somewhat ordinary life.
During Jacob’s time on the island, he learned that his grandfather was much more than anyone had ever dreamed of. Jacob also finds that he has a gift of his own. There were terrible things afoot for anyone who was Peculiar and Jacob would do what he could to help.
What I Liked
This was quite an interesting story. It’s a bit of a different take on people who are “different.” Wouldn’t it be really neat if there were actually people who were different in some of the unique ways that stories say they can be different? What if there was something more than just being human? It’s a neat idea.
The idea of the loops is interesting as well, although, it does sound like an awfully big responsibility for the people who are able to create loops. I like that time travel is thrown into this story. Time travel is a special interest of mine, being a lover of Doctor Who and Back to the Future.
What I didn’t like
This book follows the traditional, “I didn’t know I was special, but I found out I’m special, I thought I was ordinary, and I have a family legacy of being special” pattern. How many times has this very pattern been written out? A lot. I get it, you thought you were ordinary, you found out you’re extraordinary, and people in your family weren’t so ordinary either, and now you feel like you’ve found yourself. I like stories like this, but there’s nothing exciting over the basic plot line of this story.
I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.
Do you wish that you were more than human?
If you could travel in time, would you?
Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips
Alice is a regular cleaning girl, sneaking her crush named Neil into an empty theater to see a show by a psychic, or a supposed psychic. The whole thing goes great, besides the plotting that Aphrodite is up to. She wants to stick it to Apollo, just because he’s full of himself and also because she’s not very nice. She gets her son to shoot Apollo with an arrow during his fake psychic performance. The first woman he sees is the woman he will fall in love with. The first woman he sees happens to be mousey Alice.
Soon, Alice finds herself out of a job since she snuck someone into the theater. Neil suggests that she start her own cleaning company. One of the first houses she goes to happens to be the house Apollo lives in with all the other Greek gods, who have for some reason all moved to London. There they live, working day jobs, trying to make ends meet. No one believes in the gods anymore. Aphrodite is a phone sex worker, Apollo is an actor of sorts, Artemis walks dogs, and Zeus stays up in the attic.
Alice starts cleaning house, but Apollo soon finds out that she works in his very house. To him, Alice is the woman of his dreams, but the friendship between Neil and Alice has developed into something more than friends. When Apollo makes his move, Alice rejects him and things turn bad. Generally people don’t reject Apollo. Soon a quest of heroic proportions must take place in order for Alice and Neil to be together, but also to save the world.
What I liked
This book was humorous in bringing Greek mythology into modern-day. How would the gods of yesteryear cope with our modern-day lives? It’s difficult to imagine such a thing, but Marie imagined one way that it might happen.
I like the fact that they all had to get jobs to make a living. You would think they would have a bunch of gold stock-piled somewhere or something.
Each of these gods has very human-like traits, which is something that personalizes the idea of religion. If your god can get angry or horny, are you two really that different?
The traditional hero story is in this book, although not as traditional as usual.
What I didn’t like
I’m not particularly fond of any of the characters. None of the gods are that exciting. They’re all stuck on themselves in different ways. Neil and Alice have a “meh” relationship. The story is still interesting though.
Maybe the guy who washes the windows is really an out-of-work Greek God?
Do you imagine that you could ever accept that a god lived around you, if it actually happened?
Would you go to the underworld to rescue someone who you loved?