Tag Archives: 1970s

The Westing Game

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The Westing Game

16 heirs come together in a game of cat and mouse that will reveal a murderer and award the winner with a $200 million dollar inheritance. Or so everyone thinks. Conveniently brought together in a new apartment complex, Sunset Towers, across the way from the abandoned Westing estate, the 16 heirs are called to the reading of the will for the recently deceased Samuel Westing. Each of the heirs has a connection to the Westing family, and according to the will, one of those heirs murdered Samuel Westing. Or did they? That’s is the task put to the heirs. In order to get the inheritance they must figure out who murdered Samuel Westing. The heir are divided into pairs and each pair is given a set of clues to figure out the murderer.

As the pairs progress with their clues, the reader gets to find out more about each character and their possible connection to Samuel Westing. Raskin does an amazing job of fleshing out each character, giving them depth and personality. Turtle Wexler really stands out in my mind as the precocious and aggressive 13 year old girl who just wants to be noticed and taken seriously. This clever teenager plays a huge role in the final mystery solving and reminded me a bit of Harriet the Spy mixed with Nancy Drew. Turtle can hold her own.

The whole novel was an homage to the locked room mysteries of Agatha Christie. The plot is threaded with subtle clues and red herrings that the reader has to keep track of. The pace of the plot keeps you on your toes and guessing until the end. According to the little introduction in the front of the book, Raskin wrote this novel off the cuff and added on clues as she wrote, which, considering the complexity of the mystery, is pretty darn amazing. I can see why this novel won the Newberry Medal. The plotting is ingenious and the characters unforgettable. The Westing Game is a twisty puzzle of a mystery.

Rating: 4.5/5

Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015. Happy reading!

Ghost Story

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Ghost Story

“What was the worst thing you’ve ever done? I won’t tell you that, but I’ll tell you the worst thing that ever happened to me…the most dreadful thing…”

Perhaps the best first line I’ve ever read from any book. I was immediately entranced by this novel and wanted to find out what this horrible, dreadful thing was. The prologue of the novel thrusts you right into the thick of things and definitely keeps you, as the reader, on your toes. You’re kind of getting the end in the beginning and then need to work backwards from there to figure out how this character got into the desperate situation he currently finds himself in. And that journey is one wild ride.

To break it down, since I don’t want to give anything away, the novel is about a group of older gentlemen who are exceptionally close friends. These gentlemen have a sort of club called The Chowder Society where they get together and tell each other ghost stories from their past, conveniently circumventing the story they are all involved in. When their dreams begin to become unbearable they decide to invite the nephew of a deceased member of the group to help them figure out what is going on. Each man, Sears, Ricky, John, and Lewis, have the same dream where they enter a house and watch the others die. Since the deceased member’s nephew, Don Wanderley, has written a book about paranormal events they think that he is the best person to help them figure out the strange events surrounding their small New York town and explain what is happening in their dreams.

Enter Don, who is currently living and teaching in Berkeley, and has met a mysterious and beautiful girl he immediately falls in love with. Things between the two escalate quickly and just as quickly fall apart. She’s a strange character and Don begins to suspect horrible things about her. Then as suddenly as she blew into his life, this girl, Alma Mobley, disappears without a trace. To only be found engaged to his own brother in New York. Don tries to warn his brother about the girl but his warning isn’t enough. Disaster strikes and his brother David commits suicide. His life in shambles, he decides to go and meet The Chowder Society.

The plot takes on a frenetic pace when Don arrives in Milburn. Whatever supernatural plans that started with The Chowder Society are fully actualized once Don enters the scene. Everything hits the fan and the town turns upside down. The worst possible things that can happen do, and it’s up to Don and The Chowder Society to find a way to repair the damage and save the town from it’s ghostly presence.

I know this all sounds a bit vague but I don’t want to give even a hint away. This is a novel that must be savored, and I don’t want to take that away from anyone who wants to read it.

I will tell you, this novel scared the pants off me. It took a while to build up but once it got there it was worth the wait. I spent many a night looking down the hallway making sure nothing was lurking there. I even thought about plugging in a nightlight. To me, this novel was the ultimate kind of scare. Like the Nightmare on Elm Street series, this novel dealt with entities invading your mind and taking control over your thoughts to show you things that aren’t real. They use your own thoughts, emotions, desires, and regrets to take control over you and make you do what they want of you. These entities muddy up the waters of perception and memory until you’re so confused you don’t know what’s up or down. You lose control of your faculties and are plunged into a facade of your desires before you realize that what you’ve entered is really a nightmare.

Even Stephen King has said that Ghost Story is one of the finest horror novels of the late 20th century. For anyone that loves a good psychological scare, I would highly recommend this book. This novel, however, is a lot more than a horror novel. It’s a psychological look at the human condition and how the mind can be such a powerful force for good and for evil. It shows that perhaps the worst nightmare can be one of our own invention.

Rating: 5/5 Go out and get a copy immediately.

And please stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015. Happy reading!

The Grass Is Always Greener Over The Septic Tank

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The Grass Is Always Greener Over The Septic Tank

Anyone who has ever lived in a small town or a subdivision will find this novel hilarious. I grew up in a really small town and didn’t live in a subdivision myself but have seen them popping up everywhere since I was a child and had many friends whose families moved into them as soon as they sprung up. Little boxes in a row indeed, each coming up with smaller yards and getting closer and closer to your neighbors. It was surprising to me how relevant the novel remains even though it was written in the ’70s. The suburbs and subdivisions they inspire are still as popular as ever as more and more people move from the city to the suburbs in search of a cheaper cost of living.

Every chapter is a little foray into suburb and small town life from going to garage sales to attending block parties. Some of my favorite chapters are the ones where the mother has to go into the schools and be a yard duty. I remember those mothers well at my own school and find it even funnier now that I myself work in education. The depiction of kids is priceless. If you’ve ever watched the show Recess from the Disney channel it’s exactly like the kindergartners. So spot on it’s scary. I also loved the garage sale chapter. I remember way back in the day when my grandmother used to make my brother and I man the cash box at her garage sales and how crazy people get bargaining over the things you think are total crap.

The nostalgia factor is again so high in this novel. It just reminds me of growing up and being surrounded and enveloped by subdivisions. I laughed out loud quite a few times by different caricatures of people I’ve known or friends’ parents. Even my own parents at times. My dad who always insisted on fixing everything himself and the conversations we have over dinner, probably the same three over and over again.

I didn’t think I would find this novel as funny as my grandma said it was but I can happily say that it is. I would definitely recommend it for this who like dry humor and commentary on the norms and mores of suburb living.

Rating: 4/5

Next up in Book Battle 2015 is the flipped of this one. A book that will make you cry. Stay tuned for the title. Happy reading!

Everything I Never Told You

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Everything I Never Told You

Everything I Never Told You paints itself as a murder mystery but once the story starts to blossom and expand the real mystery isn’t quite what you anticipate.

At first this novel reminded me so much of The Lovely Bones it was ridiculous. It was nearly a carbon copy. Young teenage girl in the 1970s living in a small town suburb goes missing and is suspected murdered. Two parents break apart and the two remaining siblings are left to deal with the wreckage. Mom leaves the family and then comes back, dad sees dead daughter everywhere, while the youngest sibling remains nearly forgotten.

It wasn’t until about a little more than halfway through that the novel started to take a different course. It became much more of a family/emotional/coming of age drama than a mystery. And the drama revolved around Lydia, the suspected murdered sister. For me, the theme that stuck out most in the novel was a be careful what you wish for. Every member of the family ardently wished for something to come true, and it did. But that wish soon morphed into something wholly different and for some family members unbearable. The father James wishes to fit in so badly he picks a wife who he thinks would be a cookie cutter American wife. His wife Marilyn wants more than anything to be different from her mother so she picks James, a Chinese American professor. Lydia wants her mothers love and vows to do anything to get it. And Nath wants a version of what his father wants, acceptance. Each of them get exactly what they wanted but at a price. For some a tragic one. It doesn’t take long for each family member to realize that what they initially wanted wasn’t at all what they needed. It only isolated them instead of bringing them closer. And ended up culminated in tragedy.

I’m not sure if it was because this book was so hyped and I had such high expectations or if the book simply proffered itself as one thing and was something entirely different, but it took me awhile to begin enjoying this one. There were so many parallel’s to different books that it felt this was at first a retelling.

But once the author found her groove and hit the right note the book really did make me feel the emotions of the characters, especially Lydia. But it took her awhile. Each character is, in their own way, horrible and human. And it’s not until you really delve in the book that you see what drives them to do what they do.

Overall, this book wasn’t my favorite so far and that’s hard for me to say. I wanted to like this book so much more, but I just couldn’t get into it or shake the feeling of dejavu for the longest time.

Rating: 3.5

Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015! A hint, it’s going to be a funny book next. Happy reading!

Sci-Fi Mystery Mash Up

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Sci-Fi Mystery Mash Up

I have to say When You Reach Me was not what I expected it to be. I guess in my mind, from reading the synopsis on the back, I had conjured an image of a small Nancy Drew being thrown into some kind of crime, solving the case with some mishaps along the way, and catching the bad guys. But this book was something wholly different. Heavily influenced by Madeleine L’Engle’s book A Wrinkle in Time, When You Reach Me follows a 12 year old girl who mysteriously begins to receive letters from an unknown person telling her to write a letter with specific information included.

I read this book in one sitting, it flowed effortlessly from chapter to chapter that I couldn’t stop myself. Like the last book I read for the Book Battle, The Secret Place, this novel also deals with themes of friendship, growing up, and sacrifice. How do you branch out on your own, solve challenges for yourself, and become a better you?

The story begins with the friendship of Miranda and Sal, the epicenter of the book and for the events that follow. After Sal gets punched by an unknown boy, things start to get weird and Miranda begins to receive letters asking her to look for signs in order to prove to her that the letters are real. Of course she’s scared, though probably not as much as most adults would be. Then her friendship with Sal seems over and she can’t understand why. So she has to formulate new friendships and an identity outside of the Miranda and Sal bubble.

And of course there’s the time travel. It’s quite a thinker when the author begins to describe how it could be possible. You have to eliminate the possible, the rational, so that all that remains is the impossible. It’s a conundrum but a wonderful one. This book was incredible, subtle, and touching. I highly recommend it to both adults and to children. There is something here that everyone can connect with.

Rating: 5/5

Stay tuned for the next book of Book Battle 2015. Teaser well!

When You Reach Me

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When You Reach Me

The next phase of Book Battle 2015 is to choose a novel based solely upon the cover. Now I admit, I played around with this a lot and came up with Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me. I’ve been wanting to read this book for awhile now and can’t wait to start. The premise is so promising, the blend of science fiction and mystery fascinating. Plus it takes place in the 1970’s in New York and won the Newberry Medal. Where can you go wrong?

The novel’s inspiration comes from a newspaper article about a man who was suffering from amnesia. Apparently while under hypnosis the man recalled his wife and two daughters died in a car accident. However, when he and his wife reunited it turned out that the woman was his fiancee and that they had no children. Taking the article, Stead creates a collage of her own childhood and favorite childhood book, A Wrinkle in Time, and creates something wholly new.

What are you reading next for Book Battle 2015? Anyone read When You Reach Me?